VirtualBox vs Microsoft Virtual Server

I’ve installed VirtualBox as an alternative to Microsoft Virtual Server. I’ve set up a VM using the same parameters as the MVS VM (512 MB memory, 10 GB hard drive). And I've installed the same guest OS (Microsoft Windows Server 2003).

This is a much more accessible solution. Everything appears within one simple UI. You can create, manage, and run multiple VMs from one list. No running within the browser, and no ActiveX control.

As compared to Microsoft Virtual Server, VirtualBox offers all the same features (mounting ISO images, mapping network adapters, etc.), but also adds audio and USB support. And it puts snapshot capabilities right up front on its own convenient tab. To make a snapshot in MVS, you have to copy the virtual hard drive file to a different folder and manage it separately.

There is one extra step you need to take to give your virtual box access to – and make it accessible from – the outside world. Whereas this is a combo-box in MVS, you need to manually bridge network connections for VirtualBox.

First you will need to change the virtual network adapter. When you power down the VM, the configuration links become accessible in the VirtualBox Details tab. Click “Network” and in the “Attached To” combo box choose “Host Interface”. Hit the “Add” button in the “Host Interfaces” list and create an interface called “VirtualBox Host Interface 1”.

Next you will need to bridge this virtual adapter to your physical adapter. In XP, right click on “My Network Places” and select “Properties”. In Vista it’s conveniently hidden from you. Open the control panel and search on “Network”. Click on “View Network Connections”. You should now see all of your network adapters, including “VirtualBox Host Interface 1”. Select both your “Local Area Connection” and this virtual interface, right-click, and select “Bridge Connections”.

Start your VM again and it will now appear to be on your network.

Besides this additional networking hassle, the tradeoff between VirtualBox and Microsoft Virtual Server is that MVS looses the simpler UI and comprehensive device support in exchange for remote administration via its web interface and ActiveX control. It is designed primarily for headless servers, where remote administration is more important than audio or USB.

For my purposes, VirtualBox makes for a better lab experience.

VirtualBox running Windows Server 2003 in Vista … on a Mac

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