I chose VMware’s Workstation because I have very good experience with them, however, it really depends on your personal preferrence. I use my old 32bit Windows XP Professional licence for various testing and service hosting tasks. For example, yesterday I needed to install a trial version of Microsoft’s Office suite, but I don’t use Office on my workstation and I certainly don’t want to make the unnecessary mess by installing and uninstalling such a huge package, especially since it is from Microsoft, I’m certain it’ll take advantage of Windows’ registry, heavily. So I powered up my VM and installed it there. Another example was to try out and test FilleZilla’s FTP server that will be deployed on numerous machines we have in our organization, again, I installed and configured all the settings on my virtual machine and connected to the VM’s FTP folder via Total Commander, just to see whether it worked or not.
The other, major, task I use VMs for is testing and deployment of my scripted tools. Be it Python scripts or MAXScripts. I also need a database host for testing more complex pipeline tools I’m working on. Getting MySQL (I don’t really need anything more sophisticated or complex for such tasks) up and running was a matter of minutes, especially since it’s open source. Then setting up a MySQL connection via a bridged TCP/IP connection was a no-brainer. I can then start querying and using the database’s full potential from within 3ds Max or Maya.
I also setup my HW firewall as well as my network the way that I can easily access and control my workstation as well as my virtual machines remotely using Windows’ native Remote Desktop application. As a freelancer I need my publicly available, but also proprietary software (such as beta versions of some applications I test) at hand when on the move or at one of the local VFX companies. For example, I’m an active beta tester of Ceba’s (fantastic ) finalRender and I was working on a job at UPP where I needed access to my beta version of finalRender for some rendering tasks. I simply connected to the IPClamp service via internet through my workstation to one of my VMs and acquired the licence for the session. Nice and easy.
I’m also currently testing out (well, rather getting to know ) Linux distros. One of them being XUbuntu and the other Fedora. Both of them have very strong userbase and support as well as are being quite well known and praised. But mainly don’t require me to purchase a licence in order to run another machine for some other tasks, which is always nice.
Anyways, on nowdays hardware, virtualization is one of the things technical guys should definitely check out. We have plenty of memory, tons of hard disk space and CPU cores to give out, why not use them to the max? The potential is limitless and I greatly enjoy the comfort and possibilities that virtualization has to offer. Be it testing new or “dangerous” stuff, learning new operating systems or simply running tasks and services that I don’t need daily on my primary machine and thus save my workstation from installing and uninstalling tons of unnecessary software that only takes a lot of your resources and makes mess of your registry.