Virtualisation has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years and VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop are pretty common Mac apps these days. One free alternative that I haven’t tried for a while is Sun’s Open Source VirtualBox. I hadn’t tried it for a while primarily because last time I tried to use it I found it a bit sluggish and unstable. I’m glad to say though that having given the current version a spin it’s actually pretty good, although I may have had a better experience this time as a result of using OpenSolaris as the guest OS, so perhaps support between the two Sun products is unsurprisingly better than when attempting to run other systems.
The reason for the OpenSolaris test was actually a continuation of my trials and tribulations with ZFS, now of course sadly removed from Mac OS X due to licensing issues. I was testing whether it would be feasible to use OpenSolaris and ZFS as backend storage for some of our systems. While OpenSolaris seems pretty usable and obviously has a first party ZFS implementation, it’s going to take a bit of time to work out if it’s suitable. While ZFS is effectively the same as it was on OS X (although more up-to date), and OpenSolaris seems moderately easy to get to grips with, the big problem is going to be hardware support. With OS X it’s pretty easy; you buy Apple kit and look for Mac OS X support on interface cards, peripherals and software. There’s normally even a handy logo right there on the product page. More importantly I’ve also got a lot of experience in knowing which kit works best together and which kit has good OS X support. With OpenSolaris, not only do I have very limited experience of what works but without a first party vendor (unless we went with relatively expensive Sun systems running Solaris itself) I barely know where to start looking other than randomly searching on Google and OpenSolaris forums.
So, I’ll keep having a play but really I’m hoping that ZFS on OS X still has legs, and I’m giving at least emotional and hopefully some practical support to the brilliant team who have picked up Apple’s abandoned ZFS implementation and are trying to keep it alive. If you happen to be a Mac OS X kernel hacker, or brilliant filesystem engineer (sadly I am neither), please consider joining in, it’s a worthwhile cause!
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