VMware has released an update for VMware Workstation. Version 5.5, the newest rev of its desktop virtualisation products, adds features and flexibility, according to the company.

New and enhanced features include support for 64-bit guests when running on both AMD's 64-bit Athlon and Intel's equivalent, EM64T, together with Intel Virtualization Technology (VT) - this last feature is experimental, which means that VMWare doesn't officially support it yet, although a company spokesman said that unofficial support was available via the company's online forums. It also supports 64-bit Linux and Windows guest operating systems with experimental support for 64-bit Solaris x86 and FreeBSD. The company reckoned that this allows developers and testers to run 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems simultaneously on the same hardware.

In addition, support for two-way virtual SMP, also experimental. This means a single virtual machine can span two processors, which allows enabling developers to configure real-world production environments on a desktop machine without having to tie up a server.

The new rev also allows you to convert Symantec Live State Recovery images into virtual machines or to open those images in their native format without modification. The Symantec product performs system recovery so users can capture a desktop machine's live state. Developers and testers can reuse their libraries of physical machine images when deploying or building a virtual infrastructure.
The company's also added to the command line interface, vmrun, the ability for organisations to automate repetitive tasks such as taking and listing snapshots for a virtual machine, and reverting to a snapshot.

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"VMware Workstation 5.5 reaffirms VMware's commitment to providing our customers with the industry's broadest virtualisation platform," said company alliances president Brian Byun. "Our customers have indicated that features like support for 64-bit guest operating systems and multi-CPU virtual machines are very important to them as they plan their infrastructure for the future. VMware Workstation 5.5 gives developers a powerful platform to accelerate the development, testing and support of their next-generation applications."

"Virtualisation will drive increased operational efficiency, flexibility, mobility and integrity for customers across the enterprise," said Intel marketing manager Chad Taggard. "We are pleased to see this first product from VMware supporting the market's first shipping hardware-enabled virtualisation technology from Intel. Coupling VMware's robust solutions with Intel Virtualization Technology will expand the adoption of the virtualised enterprise client, mobile and server platforms."

"VMware Workstation 5.5 is the market's first commercially available virtualisation software solution to provide 64-bit virtualised Operating Systems on AMD Athlon 64 processor-based systems," said AMD VP Joe Menard. "AMD helped pioneer the market for x86-64 bit operating environments, and we are pleased to extend our collaboration with VMware to help deliver optimised performance and robustness for today's existing AMD Athlon 64 processor-based systems."

"We were very interested in VMware Workstation 5.5 because of its new support for 64-bit operating systems," says Gap's lead network engineer Ed Vanderpool. "We've been wanting to use 64-bit Ubuntu Linux, so we tried it on Workstation 5.5. It worked flawlessly. The speed was incredible. We have been doing a lot of migrations and testing in Linux. With Workstation 5.5, we get speed, performance and memory management, which is exactly what we're after."

Vanderpool said: "Workstation 5.5's enhanced VMImporter utility also enabled me to easily convert Symantec LiveState Recovery to VMware virtual machines for migrations. I did the migration on one of the backups previously and was able to move it over with Workstation 5.5 with no problem. Before, you'd have to do extractions; it was a longer, more complicated process. Also, we've noticed that being able to connect virtual machines to simulate tests in multi-tiered configurations is seamless and stable - even more so than in Workstation 5. We also like the flexible network settings in Workstation 5.5; the setup is straightforward, and it gives us greater flexibility in testing."

VMware Workstation 5.5 for both Linux and Windows host operating systems is available today. The electronic download for Workstation 5.5 is $189, boxed it costs $199.