Thursday, September 05, 2013

VMware Workstation 10.0 New Features

VMware Desktop Virtualization Products Updated


Another year, another set of "new product releases" (new versions of VMware products).  And, by now it should be very clear that VMware's software marketing goals, presumably to help product predictable and continual cash-flow, are to push annual full-product (read: paid) version releases of their core products, regardless of how significant the new features are in those products. Last year around this time, I wrote about the new features in VMware Workstations 9.0, and just a year before that I wrote about the new features in VMware Workstations 8.0.

There is a definite pattern forming here with regards to both timing and the fact that each release is a paid version upgrade (as opposed to a perhaps free "point upgrade"). It is not just VMware doing this — it is an industry-wide norm now that tries to force customers to keep pumping cash out for small features and bug-fixes that probably should have been included for free. Oh well, time to give up and take it (because this trend is NOT going away).

New Features in VMware Workstation 10.0

I am having a difficult time getting overly excited about this latest version of VMware workstation, especially since it is a paid release and I do not see many changes that I care about or plan to use.

Key New Features: Windows 8.1, tablet sensors, and expiring VMs (do you care?)

Windows 8.1 Features

Seeing that I have yet to even use Windows 8, I do not care about Windows 8.1 support from VMware Workstation either.  But, I will admit, I find it more likely I will perhaps actually take time to evaluate Microsoft Windows 8.1 final — as soon as Microsoft releases it and makes the trial download available — but that alone gives me little reason to consider paying for Workstation version 10.0.

I personally hope to stretch as many years out of Windows 7 (a very solid product) as possible until I can migrate everything to Linux.  Had Microsoft not turned Windows into what looks like some goofy smart-phone UI (that I am not to force upon desktop users and/or that I have to learn a whole new application-development and programming model for), perhaps I would think differently about this.

But, if you use Windows 8.1, the features of interest in this Workstation 10.0 release are bound to be handy for you: Unity mode has been enhanced to seamlessly work with Windows 8.1 UI changes and Workstation 10 can now convert a Windows 8.1 physical PC to a virtual machine.  Yay, I would expect that even in a "point release", but whatever.

Tablet-Sensor Support (in Virtual Machines)

Next, there is the new tablet-sensor (pass-through) to virtual-machines — accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and ambient light sensor data available to VMs.  Great! (sarcasm... again, I do not care).  Call me old-school: I do not use a tablet, nor a smart-phone or whatever, for my daily applications... I still prefer a desktop with a big monitor for everything from email to spreadsheets to programming and so forth.

I do not currently need to pass tablet touch-sensor-data or gyroscope-data to a virtual machine.  But, I can see how tablet-software-developers would like this new tablet-sensor-virtual-machine-pass-through feature for testing their varied "apps" under different operating systems, web browsers, and other configurations.

Expiration Dates for Virtual Machines — something useful!

This feature got my attention. As a custom software developer, the ability to set an expiry-date on a virtual machine has quite a bit of potential. Consider the case of demonstrating a custom application to a client where the entire application may reside in a virtual-machine.  The client wants to evaluate it for a period of time, but you (the developer) wants at least some level of assurance the software will not function in perpetuity without you receiving some compensation for your product.

I will need to experiment with this feature in detail.  I want to see whether, in combination with other virtual-machine administrative-lockdown options, this will provide the security I need in order to leave an entire Virtualized application "stack" (an app, fully self-contained in a VM) with a client or potential client "safely".  Since the new expiration date can even require synchronization with a specified time-server (which should prevent the old "set the clock back" circumvention methods), this sounds like a good start for securing one's intellectual property.

Next, I would think that by locking down the VM hardware configuration (and any contained-operating-system's administrative rights, etc), I could prevent someone from gaining access to files via network-copy and such.  Coupled with diligent use of code obfuscation and so forth, this may all add up to a nice way to help guard intellectual property while giving clients a great way to evaluate a software product for a limited amount of time.

Other New Features in VMware Workstation 10

Some other miscellaneous features were mentioned in the VMware Workstation 10 release information, like:
  • Power Off Suspended Virtual Machines — at least, I hope that made the cut from the 2013 technology preview version of Workstation 10; that can be quite handy.
  • Support for 16 vCPUs, 
  • 8 TB SATA disks and 64GB of RAM
  • New Virtual SATA (vSATA) disk controller 
  • Now supporting 20 virtual networks 
  • USB3 streams support for faster file copying, which provides the following, per release notes:
USB 3 Streams have been implemented to enable high speed transfer of files from USB 3 external storage devices that support this technology. For customers running Workstation 10 on laptops with small hard disks, large data files, video files etc., can be stored on an external USB 3 storage device and accessed quickly from within the virtual machine.
  • VMware has also addressed issues Intel, NEC, AMD, TI and Linux Kernel host xHCI drivers to improve overall USB 3 compatibility and performance.
  • Improved application and Windows VM startup times 
  • SSD Pass through
  • Multiple monitor set-ups are easier than ever, whether you are using 2, 3, or 4. 
  • VMware-KVM provides a new interface for using multiple virtual machines
I need to find more information about the SSD Pass-through, as I wonder if that will help with both speed and SSD longevity; I believe this is limited to operating systems (inside a VM) like Windows 8 that can optimize themselves for running from an SSD.  I am also interested in speed-testing any USB3 devices; in the past, there seemed to be a lot of restrictions on USB3 use, and perhaps this is no longer an issue?  Time will tell.

New Operating System Support for:

  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 8.1 Enterprise
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Ubuntu 13.10
As well as for the latest Fedora, CentOS, Red Hat and OpenSUSE releases.

BOTTOM LINE: As always, the choice is yours as to whether the upgrade price (around $119) is worth it or not.  I have learned (the past few years) to wait for "Cyber Monday" sales that tend to knock $20 or $30 off this price via VMware's online store.  Since I am in no hurry, I plan to do that this year again if I decide to invest in this version to gain the expiring-virtual-machines feature or one of the other smaller updates.  The full release notes are available online at VMware site (took me a while to locate, too).

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Anonymous said...

Another year, another VMware Workstation that VMware hopes users will upgrade to!

Well, VMware Workstation 8.0.6 works fine for me as a personal user on my system with Ivy Bridge motherboard and Sandy Bridge CPU running Windows 7 x64. As I have no intention of "upgrading" to Windows 8 or using Windows 8 in a virtual machine, I have skipped Workstation 9, and it seems to me that I should also skip this Workstation 10 as it provides no new useful features for me.

If in the future I need or want to test Windows 8/8.1 virtual machines then I might reconsider, but as you said even if I change my mind I would only upgrade when the price is "right", that is, only when VMware offers some sort of price reduction on its current price. The current upgrade price is too expensive for the lack of useful new features to a user like me on VMware Workstation 8.0.6.

Anonymous said...

Continue from above comment.

I have purchased an upgrade to VMware Workstation 10 (and also VMware Fusion 6 Professional as I also use VMware Fusion 4) at a reduced price when VMware offered a "Cyber Monday" deal some time ago. I have decided I may need to test Windows 8.1 in virtual machines later which is why I paid for the upgrade.

However, I think it is very possible that this may be the last time that I upgrade to a newer version of VMware Workstation, at least for some time. As I will continue to use Windows 7 as my OS on my primary PC (Windows 8 and 8.1 are like shiny smartphone OSes that not usable as a primary OS, just as you said), I don't need support for newer versions of Windows for some time and I don't plan on paying for these upgrades continuously when there are not enough useful new features for me.

What about you? Have you upgraded?

Mike Eberhart said...

Yes, I did give in and upgrade during the annual Black-Friday / Cyber-Monday sale. I ended up wanting to try Windows 8.1 in a VM, and I also wanted to see if any other new features were useful to me. So far, I cannot say the upgrade has offered much value for me, but maybe once I start using it more. I guess the bottom line is that this annual software upgrade is essentially software-insurance plan to keep up with latest features, etc.