Stop Using VMware Server! (For Your Workstation Workloads)

I mean it. Really. One of my pet peeves is the fellow who installs VMware server on his workstation to run his work provided Windows XP image (or some variant of Linux). The logic behind this usually goes something like:

“I needed to be able to create virtual machines and VMware Server is the only free VMware product that will let me do that.”

First, while that may have been the case in the past, it is not anymore. Second, there are a host of reasons why Server likely is not suited for your workstation workloads.

When to use VMware Server (Use Case pt 1)

I hear you asking: “Well, when do I use VMware Server?”. The answer here is that server has a few use cases. For example, if your server hardware is not otherwise on the HCL and you have a need to run VMs in a non production environment. Server makes a great choice. It also makes a great choice when you want the virtual machines to start on boot, and will be accessing them remotely. It also makes sense when doing server development and snapshots are critical.

When not to use VMware Server (Use Case pt 2)

This list may actually be a bit longer than the above. Basically, you will want to avoid VMware server if you will be:

Basically, VMware Server is well suited for background server work loads, rather than in your face workstation like work loads. You have VMware Player for that.


So if you’re not supposed to use VMware Server for workstation tasks… what are you to use? In keeping with the “Free” product type requirement, there are several good alternatives:

  • VMware Player 3.0
    Player 3.0 gives you the ability to create and run virtual machines and seemingly shares some of it’s code base with VMware Workstation. Meaning while they may not be feature compatible, you will still be performance compatible.
  • Sun/Oracle Virtual Box
    A bit more feature rich (teleportation anyone?). Virtual box is open source and free for use as well. It also provides excellent workstation performance.

Some for-cost alternatives involve VMware Workstation or Fusion, as well as Parallels. I’d be amiss if I didn’t also tell you that if your hardware is on the HCL and you don’t mind remote access, ESXi is likely the route to go with your server workload issues.


Basically, you’ll want to use VMware Server for server workloads on hardware that is not otherwise on the VMware HCL. For everything else there is ESXi or VMware Player (or Virtualbox, etc).

6 thoughts on “Stop Using VMware Server! (For Your Workstation Workloads)

  • Dumb question here, but can you run more than one VM on VM Player at the same time? If so, am I crazy or was that the limitation when it was first release?

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  • An excellent step for successful career in I.T industry is VCP Certification. Lot of revolution in every arena, especially in the software industry, has increased the popularity of virtual machines and vice versa it caused a major uplift in value of VM ware certified professionals. Today people are more clever than machines.

  • I don't recall any such limitation. Now, the player UI can only handle one VM at a shot, but you can have multiple instances of the UI open at once. Hope that clears it up.

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