VirtualBox

Version 6 (modified by admin, 11 years ago) (diff)

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About VirtualBox: an introduction

VirtualBox is a family of x86 virtualization products that is as powerful as its proprietary competitors. It is, however, the only professional solution that is also Open Source Software.

Some of the features of VirtualBox are:

  • Modularity. VirtualBox has an extremely modular design with well-defined internal programming interfaces and a client/server design. This makes it easy to control it from several interfaces at once: for example, you can start a virtual machine in a typical virtual machine GUI and then control that machine from the command line, or possibly remotely. VirtualBox also comes with a full Software Development Kit: even though it is Open Source Software, you don't have to hack the source to write a new interface for VirtualBox.
  • Virtual machine descriptions in XML. The configuration settings of virtual machines are stored entirely in XML and are independent of the local machines. Virtual machine definitions can therefore easily be ported to other computers.
  • Virtual USB Controllers. VirtualBox implements a virtual USB controller and allows you to connect arbitrary USB devices to your virtual machines without having to install device specific drivers on the host.
  • Remote Desktop Protocol. Unlike any other virtualization software, VirtualBox fully supports the standard Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). A virtual machine can act as an RDP server, allowing you to "run" the virtual machine remotely on some thin client that merely displays the RDP data.
  • USB over RDP. With this unique feature, a virtual machine that acts as an RDP server can still access arbitrary USB devices that are connected on the RDP client. This way, a powerful server machine can virtualize a lot of thin clients that merely need to display RDP data and have USB devices plugged in.
  • Shared folders. Like many other virtualization solutions, for easy data exchange between hosts and guests, VirtualBox allows for declaring certain host directories as "shared folders", which can then be accessed from within virtual machines.
  • Guest Additions for Windows and Linux. VirtualBox has special software that can be installed inside Windows and Linux virtual machines to improve performance and make integration much more seamless. Among the features provided by these Guest Additions are mouse pointer integration and arbitrary screen solutions (e.g. by resizing the guest window).

Open Source VirtualBox and other versions

After several years of intense development, in November 2006, VirtualBox was released as Open Source. Since VirtualBox incorporates code from various libraries, there are a variety of licenses involved (for details, please refer to the user manual?). However, the bulk of the code that InnoTek has written is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

If you are interested in using VirtualBox -- either for private or business use --, you have the choice between three versions:

  • The full VirtualBox package is available in binary (executable) form free of charge on the Downloads page. This version is free for personal use and evalation.
  • The VirtualBox Open Source Edition (OSE) is the one that has been released under the GPL and comes with source code. It is functionally equivalent to the full VirtualBox package, except for: USB support over RDP and Shared folders.
  • If, instead, you wish to purchase licenses for enterprise use and/or enterprise support for VirtualBox, please do not hesitate to contact InnoTek.

Screenshots

We have put together a small tour of the VirtualBox features on the Screenshots page.

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