By Monte FergusonMacs in the enterprise world today are a very small percentage of the
computers used in business’. A growing, but a minor player in the
enterprise world to be sure. That means, at some point, a business Mac
user will have to deal with a Microsoft dominated infrastructure. Most
of the Microsoft/Windows enterprise tools, such as print servers, file
servers or network authentication servers , do not support Mac clients.
To get along, you have to play along. For many that means having to run
Apple has a solution, called Boot Camp, but it requires you shut down
MacOS X and then boot directly into Windows. Not an elegant solution.
Parallels takes a different approach. It, VMWare Fusion, acts as a
middle layer. It presents itself as a standard PC to Windows. It also
routes the Windows OS commands to the appropriate hardware on the Mac.
VMWare Fusion allows you to run the MacOS and Windows at the same time.
You can even copy/paste, as well as drag and drop between both operating
systems transparently. More importantly, to many Mac users, it allows
you to use as much or as little of Windows as you need.
The main achievements in VM Ware Fusion 3.x can be summed up as: More
Mac-like, Easier to Use, and More Powerful.
VM Ware has a long track record on the PC, as THE emulation tool, but
it is a relative new comer to the Mac platform. The company has been
working hard to woo Mac users. Their approach is to make running
Windows, within VMWare, as seamless as possible. Things we take for
granted like drag and drop, copy and paste all work flawlessly between
MacOS X and Windows based apps. Printing just works without additional
setup. You can even view Windows applications in Exposé and Spaces.
There is even support for overlapping windows of Windows apps when
displayed in Unity mode, which allows you to run a Windows app without
running it within the Windows desktop. If all you need is to run an app
you can do so from the always present applications menu. It is always in
Mac’s menu bar. There is even a resizable preview window so you can
check on your virtual machine without switching to it.
Easier to Use
A new home view makes it easy to gain access to common tasks. You can
use it to install guest operating systems, migrate physical PCs, set up
Boot Camp virtual machine, or download virtual appliances. You can also
import virtual machines created by Parallels Desktop or Microsoft
Virtual PC for Mac. A feature called USB EasyConnect lets you decide
which operating system a USB device gets used with. USB EasyConnect
remembers your choices even if the Mac and/or the virtual machine are
restarted. Fusion also takes automatic snapshots, which allow you to
roll back to a known good state. A very handy feature if an update
messes things up, or a virus.
For those who are looking to migrate over from a PC, Fusion includes a
migration utility for the PC. You install the app. Hook up a regular USB
cable and fire up Fusion. It makes an exact copy of your old PC’s
environment. Everything, including customized settings transfer over.
The biggest, and most notable, improvement that relates to raw power is
in the area of graphics performance. That speed up includes both 2D and
3D performance. The 3.1 update itself boasts a speed up of 35% over
version 3.0. A new and improved graphics driver for Windows Vista and
Windows 7 delivers up to 5X better graphics performance for those
operating systems. (Those operating systems support a new graphics
engine that is much more demanding than earlier versions of Windows.)
Anyone using Vista or Windows 7 notice that all of the graphical bells
and whistles are supported. Overall graphics performance, which
translates to faster and smoother scrolling and a more responsive user
interface, will benefit everyone no matter which operating system they
A new, optimized, 64-bit engine, advanced memory, and CPU management
technology combined contribute to a much improved computing experience.
They allow you to run the most demanding productivity apps, like CAD and
3D programs, at full speed. You can devote up to 8 cores to your virtual
machine and up to 2TB in virtual disk storage.
General performance improvements also result in: faster application
launching, quicker resume from suspended state, less time required to
suspend a virtual machine, and much better overall disk performance.
VMWare tries to make it as easy as possible for those who have used
other programs to switch. You can import virtual machines created with
other products, such as Virtual PC or Parallels Desktop. Of course it
also supports Apple’s Boot Camp. It supports a wide range of operating
systems. Virtual machines you create in Fusion can be used in other
VMWare apps, and can be traded between PC VMWare users too.
From a performance standpoint, suspending the virtual machine was quick
and did not take up a lot of resources.
Lastly, and what makes Fusion unique, is support for virtual appliances.
VMWare has built up quite a business with virtual appliances. Virtual
appliances are turn key virtual machines. They are pre-installed and
preconfigured applications that are packaged along with an operating
system in a self-contained virtual machine that is ready to run on any
hardware. This capability greatly expands the utility of the program.
I was quite disappointed to learn that using the snapshot feature
disables the auto compression tools. That means you have to make a
choice at some point. Either you jettison your snapshots, or you can
reclaim hard drive space.
Resuming the virtual machine took longer than I expected. Even after the
progress bar disappears and the desktop appears, there seems to be a lag
before you can actually get to work. It was annoying but certainly not a
VMWare Fusion goes beyond the utilitarian task of running Windows. It
works hard to integrate the two operating systems closer together. The
result being that Windows actually works better, at least from a Mac
users perspective.You spend less time managing Windows and more time
getting things done. Most of the time the program is just running in the
background. You tend to forget about it. For existing owners of previous
versions the speed improvements alone justify the cost of the upgrade.
Just four years ago talking about running Windows on a Mac would have
been a non issue. But thanks to Apple switching to Intel processors,
this topic has really gained some steam. It is a bridge that makes
switching from a PC a safe proposition for many. It also allows
enterprise users to co-exist in a PC dominated office.
There are now several options for running Windows on your Intel Mac. If
you need to run Windows as well as MacOS X, check out VMWare Fusion. The
program is straight forward to use. It is flexible enough to let you
work the way YOU want to work. Best of all it eases the process of
running and using Windows and Windows apps. That is no small feat.
Thoughts on Running Windows
If you’re new to virtualization there are some things you need to
consider before you get started. VMWare Fusion itself provides the
platform on which to run Windows. It does not come with Windows. If you
do not have a license for Windows you will have to buy one. You will
also need enough RAM to run MacOS X, your usual Mac apps, Windows, and
any Windows apps. You will also need to have several GB of free hard
drive space. Lastly you will need to get an anti-virus program. (The
review copy we were provided came with a one year license for McAfee
There are some very handy benefits of running Windows in a virtual
environment. One of my favorites is not shutting down Windows. You can
just suspend Windows. You can leave programs running. Documents open.
VMWare Fusion will store the state Windows was in when it was suspended.
Next time you start it up right where you left off.
Posted: Friday, October 1st, 2010