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VMWare vs VirtualBox vs Parallels for DevOps

What is the best virtualization engine for Mac OS X? The answer depends on who you are. As always these days, I started by checking what Google has to say. After some reading I decided on VMWare. Solid with a long track record, the best support for uncommon guest platforms and the best performance. However, after a short time I realized it was not for me.

Most comparisons focus on users with limited IT experience who want to run Windows as seamlessly as possible. They want Windows programs to work as if they were Mac programs. VMWare and Parallels both beat VirtualBox with ease on that score, but I really don’t care.

What I’m looking for as a DevOps (not part of my job description, but in practice that’s what I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember) is good support for running multiple servers with other operating systems (mostly Linux) with full control over the finer details. There VirtualBox shines.

A simple example is port forwarding for NAT. With VirtualBox I can open a new tunnel into a machine with a few clicks without restarting. With VMWare on Mac that is not possible at all through the user interface. It seems to be supported by editing a hidden configuration file, but then it seems to be global rather than limited to a specific machine? Not sure, didn’t go that route. Options for hard disks are also much richer in VirtualBox.

In short I found that the free VirtualBox engine beats the commercial alternatives for my use cases. What do you think?

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Categories: Virtualization