Understanding VMware Fusion Networks


In Scott Lowe’s new article VMware Fusion 4: Top to Bottom, Scott covers all the latest features of Fusion 4 including: new HW version, improved graphics, VM encryption, how to pause a VM, Mac OS dock integration, application menu, mission control, and running Mac OS X Lion in a VM. Fusion is similar to VMware Workstation in many ways, however there are also numerous features on Workstation, that you would expect to find in Fusion, but they just aren’t there.

My Experience with Fusion 4

After being a longtime Workstation user, I’ve been trying to use Fusion 4 now for the last 2 months and have enjoyed it. Fusion is sleek and impressive, like you would expect from a Mac OS X app. In fact, from an aesthetic point of view, Fusion is far superior to Workstation.

I have used Fusion to run my personal Windows applications (like Outlook and the VMware vSphere Client) on my Mac , in Unity mode, and I have used Fusion to run even virtual ESXi 5. Fusion does a great job of running it but my laptop could use some more horsepower to run more than 1-2 virtual machines without impacting host application performance. Of course, your performance will vary based on the amount of CPU, memory, and disk I/O performance your desktop or laptop offers. I would recommend going with a quad core CPU (as fast as possible), 16GB of RAM, and a SSD flash drive to get consistent I/O, no matter the demand put on the storage.

Understanding Virtual Networks in VMware Fusion

Everything was going great in Fusion until I realized that a tool was missing – the Virtual Network Editor. This tool is found in Workstation for Windows. With the virtual networks editor, you can create numerous networks that are private and would be used by virtual machines running in Workstation. Fusion doesn’t have a way to create more than one private network (which would have to be shared by all virtual machines that are on that network). Thus, there’s no way to create multiple, perhaps overlapping, private networks. These multiple private networks would be used by lab environments, let’s say, that have overlapping networks (or use the same network).

Fusion really offers only 3 networks. They are:

  1. NAT – with the network address translation option, a VMware Fusion DHCP server will give your VM a DHCP private IP address. That IP is then NAT’ed between that private IP virtual network and your local LAN. The benefit to this is that no more IP addresses are used for the virtual machines (as they are sharing the host’s IP address).
  2. Bridged – connect directly to the physical (or wireless) network. Many times, this is the easiest way to connect a VM to the LAN.
  3. Host Only – connect directly to a private network, shared with the host and any other virtual machines that have this option selected. This is the best option for any VM that could cause trouble on the production LAN (such as a copy of a domain controller or your own DHCP server).

For most cases, one of these three networks is all that they need. Most people use bridged or NAT and these are great for standard virtual machines. Either of these networks connect the VM to the local LAN, and then to the Internet. In my case, using my Outlook 2010 in Windows 7 as a virtual machine, this is exactly what I needed.

Did you know that Fusion offers multiple virtual NICs per VM? You can create multiple virtual network adaptors by clicking Add Device (figure 1 shows that I created a second virtual NIC on my VM).

Figure 1

You could then attach those network devices to different types of networks.

Here’s what the configuration of my virtual machine’s network adaptor looked like….

Figure 2

In most cases, the networking options I described above work great but, in some cases, you may want multiple private networks, or more. When that happens, you’ll wish that you had the VMware Workstation virtual network editor that looks like this:

Figure 3

As you can tell, with that advanced editor, you have the option to create 10 different networks and make them connect to whatever networks you please. Again, there is no virtual network editor with Fusion.

Using the Free Uber Network Fuser (UNF)

Fortunately, an independent developer has stepped forward and made a FREE tool to help us with Fusion and virtual network editing. That free tool is the Uber Network Fuser (or UNF). Nick Weaver (aka @lynxbat on Twitter) has recently posted this new tool on his site for Mac OS. It’s job is similar to the Virtual Network Editor for Workstation in that it allows you access to create multiple networks and then configure them to be whatever type that you choose.

To try it out, I downloaded UNF from Nickapedia.com. It’s a tiny 2MB tool that installs in a flash. Once run, it tells you if you are running VMware Fusion or not.

Figure 4

To make changes to virtual networks you’ll have to close Fusion (but you can view virtual network info, read-only, with it open).

As you can see from the graphic, the tool is laid out into 4 tabs – Info, networks, virtual machines, and configuration.

In the Networks tab, you can view the configuration of your default networks or crease a new network (as you see I did in Figure 5, “custom network 2” and “vSphere-lab-1”). Here, you can name the network whatever you want, configure the network IP network (that will be used to hand out DHCP IP addresses if DHCP is enabled) and then configure if it will be a NAT network, bridged network, or if it will have its own private network by not having a virtual adaptor connected to the LAN).

If at any time you mess the settings up, you can click to reset to defaults to put Fusion back to how it was.

Figure 5

On the Virtual Machines tab, you can go from the virtual machine back up to configure each virtual NIC it has and what virtual network each vNIC is connected to.

Figure 6

Finally, on the Configuration tab, you can configure the file locations for the file and virtual machines.

Figure 7

To see a video of me installing and using Uber Network Fuser, check out my video on that topic here.

Figure 8

Of course, the point of having such a great virtual network editor is to open up the possibilities to use Fusion to built powerful virtual test environments (like you can in Workstation). I will be using Fusion and Uber Network Fuser to built a virtual vSphere 5 lab on my Mac desktop and laptop.

Try Out VMware Fusion 4, for Yourself

With so many new features in Fusion 4 and a 30-day free trial, if you have a Mac, you need to have Fusion 4 up and running. It offers full Aero desktop and 3D animations for Windows 7 along with a migration wizard. Besides Windows 7 or Windows 8 you can also run Mac OS X Lion in a virtual machine – that’s cool. Personally I will try running all of these plus ESXi 5 in my virtual machines. For more information read Scott Lowe’s article VMware Fusion 4: Top to Bottom and download the 30-day eval of VMware Fusion 4.

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