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Establishing Workstation as a Server

Before you start you need to make sure that the VM is turned off.

The first step is to share the VM:

Right click on the VM, then chose “Manage” and you will find the share option (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1 – How to share virtual machines

This will start a wizard that will ask you if you want to move the virtual machine to the “Shared Virtual Machines” directory or make a full clone of it in that directory (Figure 2).

 

Figure 2 – Share the Virtual Machine Wizard

The location of the “Shared Virtual Machines” directory can be changed from the preferences (Figure 3). Notice that this is a general setting that affects all VMs and not a VM specific setting.

 

Figure 3 – Shared VMs Preferences

After sharing a VM you will have machine(s) that you can manage AutoStart for them (Figure 4)

 

Figure 4 – AutoStart Virtual Machines

You can adjust the delay between starting each VM (figure 5), but you cannot change the order in which they start from the interface.

It is not uncommon to be in a position where you need to set a specific order (like starting an SQL server, before its application). For that you still need to edit an XML file named C:\ProgramData\VMware\hostd\vmAutoStart.xml using the IDs as listed in the C:\ProgramData\VMware\hostd\vmInventory.xml file.

 

Figure 5 – Delay between starting each virtual machine

Mission accomplished: The VM(s) should start with windows regardless if a user is logged in or not. So, what does all this talk about sharing VMs mean?

It simply means that you can make VMs available to other workstation clients. For example my main PC that has 16GB of RAM can run a VM that I can connect to and manage from my laptop that has only 4GB of RAM. In a testing or development environment you can even assign different users different roles and permissions on the VMware Workstation and/or the individual VM(s) according to your need.

 

Figure 6 – Shared VMs Permissions

What else is new in VMware Workstation?

VMware Workstation 8 added search and improved inventory. Search may not look important on a workstation, after all how many VMs can a workstation host? But with the ability to connect to remote vSphere servers that manage hundreds of VMs at the data center (Figure 7) search proves to be very useful.

So, VMware Workstation can connect vSphere? Not only that, it can upload VMs to it (since Workstation 8 was made available) and download VMs from it (new with version 9).

 

Figure 7

The last new feature to make Workstation more than a complete replacement of the discounted VMware Server is a web interface: The VMware WSX server is a separate MSI download file that needs to be installed to provide web access to your shared VM(s).

The VMs will be available on the URL http://localhost:8888/ without the need to install any plugin on HTML5 browsers (Figure 8), which means that you will be able to access your windows VM from your lovely tablet anywhere anytime.

 

Figure 8

Summary:

VMware Workstation is much more than what its name implies. It can stand on its own as a viable server solution. It can augment your existing server infrastructure and even make your VMs available to any HTML5 browser.

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