Sun VirtualBox is not quite a newcomer to the virtualization arena but it is definitely newer than VMware Workstation, and since it is free it is gaining quite a bit of traction. But is VirtualBox worth using? Is it a replacement for VMware Workstation?
I have used both products, and the bottom line is that Sun VirtualBox is a little rough around the edges. While it loads faster, sound capability is lacking. It has a much simpler interface, but at the same time the interface is a little cryptic. It does, however, load virtual disks from VMware Workstation.
To add virtual machines (VMs) to VirtualBox you must first create or add an existing virtual disk to the virtual disk manager. VirtualBox understands VMDKs from VMware Workstation 6.5 as well as those exported using VMware Converter from VMware ESX hosts. Once you have the virtual disk you can then create the VM and launch the VM.
I used Sun VirtualBox to work around the limitations within VMware Workstation’s USB support. Sun VirtualBox’s implementation of USB is much better and supported the device I need to use: LiveScribe SmartPen. When the SmartPen first came out there was no support for 64-bit Vista implementations, so I had to resort to virtual machines to get the 32-bit drivers to work, but they would not work through VMware Workstation on any version. They did work through VirtualBox. So VirtualBox allowed me to save my notes, but since there was no sound, I could not play them back. Eventually, 64-bit Vista drivers came out, all was well and I removed my VirtualBox implementation.
VirtualBox a good simple product if all you need is a spare system to run USB devices that VMware Workstation doesn’t support. If VirtualBox was given sound support it could rival VMware Workstation. Even so it is a very good tool to include in your virtualization toolbox. Simply put, however, VirtualBox is not as robust as VMware.
VMware Workstation provides many more features than the bare bones Sun VirtualBox. These features include embedded video creation, debugging modes for kernel developers, high speed inter-VM communication via VMCI, solid sound and video support, VM teaming, etc. If you need more than a bare bones, no thrills product then VMware Workstation is for you.