IT in the Ad Biz

Aug 4 2008   1:15AM GMT

Virtualization and the Mac

JohnWilder John Wilder Profile: JohnWilder

As I mentioned in my previous post I’m in the midst of migrating to a MacBook Pro for my day-to-day computer, and virtualization is a big part of my making the move. I’m running VMWare’s Fusion, and it’s helping make the transition easier by keeping some of my Windows apps close by. As a company, we’re firmly in the Microsoft camp with Exchange and SharePoint, and while both of those products are accessible from the Mac, it’s much easier dealing with them running Outlook and Internet Explorer. In addition, I’ve recently become hooked on Microsoft OneNote, which is not currently available on the Mac.

So far, I’ve been fairly happy with the results. Performance has not been a huge issue, and other than some sizing issues with the drive space I allocated, it’s been smooth sailing. I’m still switching back and forth a bit between Fusion’s Unity mode which allows me to run the Windows apps on the Mac desktop, and the full-screen Windows mode. At this point, about the only time I jump back into full-screen Windows mode is when I need to access something like Remote Desktop which I haven’t yet configured to launch from the OS  X dock.

This isn’t my first foray into desktop virtualization. I used it previously on my Vista laptop, running VMWare’s Workstation product to give myself a virtual copy of XP to switch back to. That worked well for me also, and it provided me a way to easily maintain copies of both Office 2007 and Office 2007 on the same machine. In both cases, virtualization has proved invaluable in giving me with a simple way to keep one foot in two (or more) different camps during OS and application migrations.

All that being said, you also can’t lose sight of the costs associated with virtualization. You do have to license all this software, but it’s still not as costly as doing the same thing with two different pieces of hardware. I think this is a great tool for those of us in IT, but I have some concerns about putting it into end-user’s hands. It’s not always easy configuring and using networks and peripherals. We have a couple end-users trying to run it on MacBook Pro’s, and they are struggling with that aspect of things. Even more troubling from my perspective, we’re starting to get some requests for copies of both Office 2007 to run under their Windows VM in addition to the copy of Office 2008 they are running on the Mac. While I’m sure Microsoft would have no trouble selling me two copies of Office for one machine, it’s a trend which will make this a very expensive option. Something else we’re getting ready to take a look at is application virtualization, probably via Microsoft’s SoftGrid.

What’s even more interesting is watching how Apple deals with virtualization in general. We’re jumping into this in a big way on both the server and desktop, but something is missing – there is no way to virtualize OS X. I have plenty of capacity left on my VMWare ESX servers, and I’d love to add an OS X server into that mix, taking advantage of my investment there as well as the reliability and cost savings it provides. I can’t see Apple sitting this out entirely, but if and when they do jump into virtualization, I suspect they’ll only allow it on Apple hardware. That’s too bad. I think they could sell a lot of software. In fact, if I could virtualize Apple applications in a similar manner, I’d probably purchase 150 copies of Keynote tomorrow.

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