VMware Fusion 4: Top to bottom
Along with a slew of other releases this fall, VMware released the latest version of their Mac-based Fusion product. As is the case with all of the company’s major releases, Fusion 4 includes a host of new features and capabilities. In this article, I’ll outline Fusion 4’s new capabilities and go over ways that you can use Fusion 4 to best effect.
To get up and running with VMware Fusion 4, your Mac needs to meet certain requirements:
- Mac OS X 10.6.7 or later; VMware recommends that you use Mac OS X 10.7 ot later
- 64-bit capable Intel-based Mac with enough cores to support
- 2 GB of RAM although VMware recommends that you have at least 4 GB of RAM since individual virtual machines require RAM to be assigned to them
- If you want to support Windows Aero, your Mac needs to have ATI Radeon x1600, Nvidia GeForce 8600M or better graphics hardware
- At least 750 MB of free disk space for VMware Fusion itself
- Sufficient disk space for each virtual machine you plan to create; refer to operating system requirements for each OS you install for further details
Bear in mind that, when it comes to hardware, the more the better when it comes to virtualization. If you plan to do anything that’s even remotely considered “heavy load” in a virtual machine, the minimums won’t cut it. For my purposes, I have a Mac with the following:
- 2.2. GHz Core i7 processor – quad core
- 8 GB RAM
- AMD Radeon HD M6750M graphics adapter with 1 GB RAM
- Mac OS X Lion 10.7
I tend to run multiple virtual machines simultaneously so additional hardware is essential.
New virtual hardware version
With new releases of its products, VMware often creates new versions of virtual machine hardware in order to enable new capabilities and enhance overall VM scalability. With VMware Fusion version 4, VMware supports three versions of virtual machine hardware.Understanding these compatibility limitations is critical if you intend to share virtual machines between platforms.
Hardware version 8
Any virtual machines created with hardware version 8 are compatible with VMware Fusion 4, VMware Workstation 8 and ESXi 5. This version also supports the greatest number of features and has the most potential for scalability. Here are some of the new features in hardware version 8:
- This hardware version adds support for HD audio
- Improves overall 3D performance
- Adds an EFI virtual BIOS to enableMac OS X Server guest support
- Up to 16 way SMP capability
- A new network interface card that is better supported across guest operating systems
Hardware version 7
Virtual machines that run with hardware version 7 can run in VMware Workstation 6.5 or higher, VMware Fusion 2 or higher or ESX/ESXi 4 or higher.
This hardware version adds support for Windows Aero support.
Hardware version 6
This hardware version is supported by VMware Fusion 1, Workstation 6 or higher and ESX/ESXi 4 or higher.
Upgrading virtual hardware
If you’re upgrading from one version of Fusion to another and have virtual machines that are using older version of virtual hardware, you can migrate those virtual machines to use the new virtual hardware. In order to upgrade virtual hardware, you must first shut down the guest virtual machine and then follow these steps:
- Once the virtual machine is shut down, go to Virtual Machine > Settings.
- Under the Other section, click the Compatibility option.
- Choose the desired hardware version.
- Click the Close button.
Figure 1: Change the hardware version for the virtual machine
Improved graphics performance
VMware Fusion 4 provides graphics performance in virtual machines that is up to 2.5 times faster than in previous versions of Fusion. Fusion 4 has support for OpenGL 2.1 and DirectX 9.0c Shader Model 3 graphics.
The bottom line: Fusion 4 can now support even demanding, graphics-intensive applications such as CAD programs and other programs that require 3D support. This significantly extends the use case potential for VMware Fusion on the Mac and can help IT departments better support users that either desire or require Macs in to fulfill their job responsibilities.
Virtual machine encryption
VMware Fusion 4 adds the AES 128-bit encryption standard to the product so that users can encrypt and protect information inside of individual virtual machines. Both disk and memory information is encrypted to provide a higher level of protection. It’s a bit disappointing that only AES-128 is supported but this is far better than having no encryption at all.
To encrypt a virtual machine in Fusion:
- Shut down the virtual machine that you’d like to encrypt.
- Open the virtual machine settings (Virtual Machine > Settings).
- Click the Encryption option.
Figure 2: VMware Fusion VM encryption option
- Change the Encryption entry to the ON position.
- When prompted, enter a password that you will use to protect the contents of the virtual machine.
Figure 3: Provide a password for the encrypted virtual machine contents
- Click the OK button when you’re done.
Figure 4: Encryption was successfully added to the virtual machine
Ability to quickly pause a virtual machine
When you have limited hardware resources, it’s difficult to run many simultaneous workloads due to the stress on the hardware. While it’s long been possible to suspend a virtual machine, doing so takes a bit of time after which resources are finally released for use by other virtual machines.
With VMware Fusion 4, you now have the ability to immediately – and very, very quickly – pause a virtual machine and release its resources for use by other virtual machines. This gives you the ability to switch quickly between virtual machines and have enough resources to do everything you need.
Figure 5: The Pause item on the Virtual Machine menu
Deep Lion integration
With Fusion 4, VMware has ensured that the product integrates deeply with the OS in a bunch of different ways.
VMware Fusion 4 still includes Unity, which is VMware’s name for the feature that allows access to Windows applications to run from within the context of Mac OS X. In the screenshot below, you can see a bunch of Mac OS X applications running in the Dock with a very familiar Windows application icon – Microsoft Outlook 2010 – at the very right-hand side of the screenshot.
Figure 6: Dock integration has been available for a while
The application menu displays a list of programs available from inside your virtual machine and is configurable from within the virtual machine settings. You will also see a lot of other options available from within the Applications menu, shown below. I’ve already configured the virtual machine from which I obtained the screenshot to display the programs you see.
Figure 7: The application menu still appears at the top of the Mac OS X window
To configure the Application menu, open the virtual machine settings and choose the Applications Menu option, shown below. Click the plus (+) button and choose the programs that you’d like to add to the menu.
Figure 8: You can control which applications are made available on the applications menu
Mission Control is a new Lion feature, which provides an at-a-glance view of the programs that are currently running on your Mac. In the screenshot below, you will notice that there is a combination of both Mac OS X and Windows programs running side-by-side and available in Mission Control.
Figure 9: Integration with Lion's Mission Control feature
Snapshots compatible with Time Machine
Give the fact that Mac users really like their tools, VMware Fusion has introduced Time Machine-compatible snapshots as well as a new visual representation of snapshots to make it easier to revert to old snapshots.
Lion in a virtual machine
Thanks to VMware adding EFI support to Fusion-based virtual machines, Mac OS X Lion is now supported as a virtual machine in Fusion.
VMware Fusion 4 is most definitely a major leap ahead for Mac users and makes the Fusion platform a powerful option for running multiple workloads to get a job done.