Market leader VMware is launching a major update to its flagship desktop virtualisation product today, while new research finds that most enterprises can't find enough people with the skills to manage virtualisation technology.

VMware has announced the general availability of VMware Workstation 6, aimed at pre-production testing of desktops and servers in virtual machines.

The product will allow Linux kernels to run in para-virtualised mode on a hypervisor as well as on native hardware. This means fewer Linux kernels to support and maintain, reducing costs and simplifying development. The enabler is paravirt-ops, an open interface whose development included collaboration from the Linux community as well as IBM, Red Hat, VMware and XenSource. The technology was included in the latest version of the Linux kernel (version 2.6.21) and includes support for VMware's VMI interface, which provides a hypervisor-agnostic para-virtualisation interface.

VMware Workstation 6 also supports Windows Vista as either a guest or host, although support for 3D graphics is not included. Other guest OSes supported include Linux, NetWare, Solaris x86 and FreeBSD.

It also offers experimental support for two-way Virtual SMP and continuous virtual machine record and replay. The latter is aimed specifically at developers, as it allows you to record the execution of a virtual machine, including all inputs, outputs and decisions made along the way. You can revert to the start of the recording and replay execution, and the virtual machine will perform the same operations every time, said VMware.

Other new features include:

  • Multiple monitor display: you can configure one virtual machine to span multiple monitors or multiple virtual machines to each display on separate monitors.

  • Integrated physical-to-virtual (P2V) functionality: you can create a virtual machine by cloning an existing physical computer.

  • Integrated virtual debugger: you can deploy, run and debug programs inside a virtual machine directly from your preferred IDE, according to VMware, which claimed industry-first integration with Eclipse and Microsoft Visual Studio.

  • Background virtual machine execution: you can run virtual machines in the background without the VMware Workstation user interface.

  • Automation APIs: you can write scripts and programs that automate and help quicken virtual machine testing with support for VIX API 2.0.

  • ACE authoring capabilities: an ACE Option Pack enables you to create secure, centrally manageable virtual machines which allows users to securely transport virtual machines on portable media devices such as USB memory sticks.

VMware Workstation 6 costs $189 and is available for download here.

New virtualisation research

On the same day that VMware updates its flagship workstation product, a research organisation published research findings showing that over half (53 percent) of British businesses are unable to implement virtualisation technology due to a lack of relevant skills. This follows Gartner's report finding that virtualisation is too expensive.

While virtualisation remains the technology most likely to attract enterprise investment and 46 per cent of respondents said they have mapped a strategy for virtualisation, a skills gap in this area is proving a stumbling block for over half, it found. Other perceived barriers cited included: understanding what systems are currently in place (38 per cent), decreased system availability (19 per cent), increased complexity (49 per cent) and extended time for transition to the new infrastructure (40 per cent).

Nearly a third of respondents (28 per cent) had already deployed a virtualisation strategy. The drivers for their decisions ranged from cost reduction (83 per cent) to improved system management (81 per cent) and the ability to deploy new technologies faster (81 per cent). Oil, gas and utilities companies were leading the adoption (44 per cent), with financial services and comms and media firms following at approximately a third each (31 per cent).

Virtualisation was by far the technology that most companies were looking to invest in, followed by service orientated architecture (40 per cent) and self-healing networks (41 per cent).

Director of Avenade's enterprise service solutions director Brent Kronenberg said: “It’s taken a long time for virtualisation to become a reality. This research helps explain why many companies are talking about virtualisation, but fewer are actually doing it. It’s one thing having a vision of your ideal technology infrastructure, but quite another if you don’t have access to the skills to make it happen.

“The right skills are not just required in the implementation phase,” said Kronenberg. “There have been a number of reported issues in measuring the return on investment and extent of the server estate – to ensure real value, you need a team that can provide these metrics back to the business.”