Sun VirtualBox 3.0!!!

Sun announced last week the availability of VirtualBox 3, the latest version of its open source virtualization solution. The new version offers high performance graphics for desktop applications and the ability to expose multiple CPUs to guest operating systems. VirtualBox will go down in its history as one of the most popular programs distributed by Sun Microsystems just ahead of its $5.6bn takeover by software giant and hardware wan(not)abe Oracle a few weeks from now.

VirtualBox was originally developed by InnoTek, which was acquired by Sun last year. InnoTek launched an open source edition of VirtualBox in 2007, releasing most of the program’s code under the GPL. Alongside the open source version, the company has continued to sell a commercial version that has additional features, such as a built-in RDP server and full USB support. VirtualBox is cross-platform compatible and is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS.

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The software has matured quickly and is beginning to outpace its rival VMware Workstation in many ways. It is also becoming popular on the Linux platform because its open source licensing makes it easy for Linux distributors to package and deploy—and it generally performs better than Linux’s kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM), the native virtualization solution of the Linux kernel. It also has an excellent user-friendly configuration and VM management interface.

VMware still offers a few advantages, such as better support for snapshots. One of the key differentiators of VMware was its support for virtualized SMP, but this feature was finally introduced in the latest version of VirtualBox. In VirtualBox 3, you can expose up to 32 CPUs or CPU cores to a guest environment (this requires chips that support Intel’s VT-x extension or AMD-V).

VirtualBox is currently my preferred desktop virtualization solution. I made the jump from VMware Server last year after losing patience with VMware’s lousy Linux support. I use VirtualBox nearly every day for distro testing and it has made virtualization an integral part of my workflow.

For a complete overview of bugfixes and other improvements in VirtualBox 3.0, see the official changelog.