Updated: January 2, 2010
Virtualization is a beautiful, compelling world of software. It's like discovering an alternate reality behind the mirror in your bedroom or a door to another world inside your wardrobe.
Popular virtualization software like VMware Server or VirtualBox should be your top choice for desktop virtualization. The programs are rich and powerful and will do pretty much anything you need or want. They also have friendly, build-in wizard-like utilities that allow you to create new virtual machines quickly and easily.
But what if you want to have even more power over the administration and automation of your virtual machines? What if you're running VMware Player, which cannot create virtual machines? What if you want to tweak advanced settings or use scripts? And what if you're traveling, with your favorite software left behind, and still need to be able to create virtual machines?
In this article, I will show you a small, yet powerful collection of utilities and online tools that should help you empower and improve the control and flexibility of your virtualized setups, for a long line of products, from Player all the way to ESX. Let us begin.
EasyVMX is an online virtual machine creator for VMware Player, Server and Workstation. It allows you to create complete virtual machines and install any Windows, Linux, BSD, or Solaris system.
EasyVMX supports both Player/Server versions 1.x and 2.x and can auto-configure some advanced and experimental settings, like DirectX 3D support for Windows virtual machines.
VMXBuilder is a collection of utilities that you can use to improve your control over your VMware products and associated virtual machines. There are six programs in total, including disk mounting and manipulation utilities and two VMX utilities.
For instance, Time Machine lets you configure your virtual machines to always start at a specific date/time, which can be very useful for old software, VMware DiskMounter GUI allows you to mount virtual machine disks and edit them, just like mounting of images as loopback devices in Linux, while VMware DiskManager GUI allows you to visualize the disk defragmentation process for your virtual machines.
Alternatively, you can install PowerWF Studio, which contains all of these utilities, plus more. PowerWF Studio is a set of tools for automating and administering virtual machine operations and guest operating systems within virtual machines. The product supports VMware Player, Server, Workstation, and even Virtual Infrastructure.
The program can be evaluated for 30 days, after which you will have to decide if you want to buy it or not. Furthermore, it requires the .NET 3.5SP1 framework to function.
Other useful resources
The following sites are also most worthy the consideration and an occasional visit. If you yearn for more information and better control of your machines, the below collection offers lots of useful data on VMware configurations, allowing to enhance, tweak and script your virtual setups even further.
VMware Virtual Appliance Marketplace - A VMware-sponsored portal, where you can find dozens of pre-built virtual machines, many free for download and use, including Ubuntu with VMware Tools installed, Damn Small Linux, CentOS, even Windows Server 2003 evaluation.
sanbarrow.com - Written sparsely but to the point; tons of advanced settings for your virtual machines. Some bits of the website are written in German, but most of it is English and rather easy to follow.
My VMware-related articles
I hope you liked this article. Whether you want to be able to visualize different aspects of the virtual machine usage and maintenance, tweak the settings to the max. or create new virtual machines on the fly, even when you're away from home, you now have simple and elegant solutions for the tasks at hand. Hopefully, your virtualization experience will be even more production and more fun now!