Pets, not cattle: VirtualBox still wins for quick and easy multi-platform work
March 18, 2021

Pets, not cattle: VirtualBox still wins for quick and easy multi-platform work

David McCann | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with Oracle VM VirtualBox

VirtualBox is being used on an as-needed basis by engineers throughout the organization. The most common use-case is developers using Linux but needing some Windows features (such as Microsoft Teams, which isn't supported on Linux with govcloud). It can also be used in the case where software is being developed that's multi-platform. In this case, VirtualBox's capability of sharing file systems between the host and VM allows for easy compilation on multiple platforms, writing code on the host machine and having those changes instantly reflected in the virtual machine via file sharing.
  • Easy integration between host machine and VM window (mouse and keyboard capture, file sharing, etc.).
  • Support for many major operating systems.
  • Dynamic sizing of virtual hard drive space.
  • Easy integration of peripherals (USB, etc.).
  • Dynamic display resizing with window size changes.
  • The user interface feels a little dated.
  • For open-source operating systems, it would be nice if the ISO download process was automated, rather than requiring users download and provide the ISO themselves.
  • Installation of guest additions to the VM could be automated (or single-click opt-in).
  • Allowed for better host OS options for developers.
  • Allowed use of Microsoft products without having to work solely on Windows.
  • Allows for more rapid cross-platform development.
Docker, and automated machine provisioning in DevOps often uses the metaphor "treat your machines like cattle, not pets." VirtualBox's intended use is definitely in the creation, management and use of "pet" machines, whereas many similar products are more in the "cattle" business. Vagrant might be comparable, but focuses more heavily on automation to configure the target machine, ideally to make teardown and rebuild slightly easier. Vagrant is probably a middle ground between Docker and VirtualBox, largely being replaced in terms of use case by Docker. In other words, VirtualBox's primary purpose is creating virtual machines for personal use.

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It's great for personal use, effectively allowing a user to have "N operating systems on 1 box," but isn't appropriate for situations where the process of provisioning and configuring a new machine will happen repeatedly. For this, puppet, docker, or similar would be more appropriate. Another potential workflow would be where a user is only working with one operating system at a time, and changes between them are infrequent. For this, a boot manager such as grub would be more appropriate.

Oracle VM VirtualBox Feature Ratings

Virtual machine automated provisioning
Management console
Live virtual machine backup
Live virtual machine migration
Hypervisor-level security