Updated: January 26, 2018
Every few months, there's a major VirtualBox update, bringing in a range of visible changes and improvements to this handy, free hypervisor product. I'm an old time user, and have written about VirtualBox many times in the past. Recently, I had the chance to test the new version, 5.2 (actually 5.2.2).
The official list of enhancements is quite impressive - the GUI now features revamped virtual media and host network managers, easier snapshot management, and unattended guest installations. Sounds neat. So let us see what gives.
When you start the program, the interface will show a slightly redesigned layout than before, which might confuse you at first. If you click on Details and/or Snapshots below, this will open the expect right pane, with all its bells and whistles.
More importantly, you now have easier access to the so-called global tools - the Virtual Media Manager and the Host Network Manager. These two utilities let you manage the storage and networking options of your virtual setup. You can attach and detach storage media, create VLANs, and all those things you would need or expect to make VirtualBox work for you.
For instance, with the storage, you can make your virtual disks immutable, allow writethrough, make the disk shareable among virtual machines, or even allow multi-attach, effectively creating a fileserver if you will.
Likewise, on the network side, if you want to create complicated setups with strict separation between networks, you can do that, too. While VirtualBox does not normally aim at the corporate space, it is slowly gearing up as a serious product, and it is offering more of the tools you would need and expect in something other than a home environment.
This is a very interesting one. At the moment, it seems there's no GUI wizard, or if one exists, I was not able to find it. You will need to use the command line to get VirtualBox to run unattended installations. The usual set of commands is VBoxManage, and then the rest of it. I will be exploring this in more detail in the future. For the time being, I've been teased, and so have you.
The installation and configuration also worked fully and seamlessly on Linux, including upgrading the extension pack. The functionality is identical across platforms. Strangely, or not, with Windows, you get a penguin logo in the main interface, and on Linux, you get a fiesta of letters. Perhaps it should be the other way around?
VirtualBox 5.2 is a refreshing addition to this product arsenal. Essentially, all the options are still there, but they are even so slightly more accessible and in turn, more powerful, which is the whole idea behind this revamp. You do also get new features, slowly, incrementally, and that helps build trust in the product. There's no wild jumping around, only continuous, consistent progress. That's exactly the kind of development and improvements that I like and appreciate.
If you are already a VirtualBox user, then you will find the changes useful and practical. If you're new to the world of virtualization, and you're deliberating, then VirtualBox 5.2 should be a good starting point. After all, it's the familiar product with some extra spice. Over the years, we got 3D support, screenshots, and now better management of the setup, and unattended installations. Party on, engage, full speed on.