I've been a happy user of Virtual PC for a number of years; it has made my life a lot easier and it offers a good combination of features. But, quite frankly, I've been getting fed up with it lately. There are two basic reasons why:

  1. Performance: On my laptop (Dell Inspiron 6000, 2.0GHz Centrino with 2 Gigs of memory), the performance of Virtual PC is just ludicrous. It's almost unbelievably slow, particularly if you're running Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 on it (which are two huge resource hogs anyway). It's so bad, that I'm seriously considering ditching VPC altogether. The problem seems to be tied to my processor type or chipset in my machine somehow and the hotfixes available for that are worse than the original problem.
  2. Lack of Support: While technically Virtual PC 2004 is a currently supported product, Microsoft really seems to be going out of its way to make it look like it isn't. We haven't seen a proper service pack since SP1 (released in late 2004, more than one and a half years ago). There are several really annoying problems with VPC 2004 that still haven't made it into a proper fix. We still don't have a downloadable installer for the updated Virtual Machine Additions for VPC2004, being forced to steal them from a Virtual Server 2005 R2 installation, even though the Virtual PC/Virtual Server team recommends using them with VPC 2004 (all that trouble just to install a stupid ISO file?).
Someone will problably recommend I run Virtual Server 2005 R2 instead. Actually, I have, and I liked it even less. Performance for Virtual Server 2005 R2 on my machine is just as bad as with VPC 2004, for some reason. And I really, really don't want to have to install IIS on my otherwise very clean Windows XP SP2 installation just to be able to install/run Virtual Server. Sure, it's fine to run on servers, but I really see no compelling reason to run Virtual Server on a laptop for development purposes. It just doesn't cut it.

I've always heard good things about VMWare (and actually ran an older version of VMWare Workstation for a while I got at a conference, I unfortunately didn't have the horsepower to use it on a daily basis at that time), and thought it might be time to give VMWare Server RC2 a try. So I went ahead and downloaded it and installed it.

Installation took a while, but it worked just fine. I was also able to simply import an existing VPC 2004 virtual machine I had and convert it into a VMWare Server image in just a couple of minutes. I'm already impressed.

But what really blew me away was the performance. Even before I installed the VMWare tools on the guest OS, performance was already far beyond anything I ever got out of VPC on my machine. For example, booting a WinServer2k3 on VPC on my machine can take 5 or 6 minutes (at the least) until you get to the desktop. With VMWare Server it only takes about 1.5 or 2 minutes, and at that point the entire OS just feels far more responsive than with VPC.

As I said, so far I'm pretty impressed with VMWare's offering. They really seem to have a kick us product that blows away any of the MS product offerings, which is a real shame because I really liked VPC. As soon as I got some free time (been very busy lately) I'll definitely move my current development environment from VPC into VMWare Server and stop beating my head against the wall with the crappy performance of VPC :-D

Tomas Restrepo

Software developer located in Colombia.