Pointed Development

CentOS, VMware Workstation, Development and Piece of Mind

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I need more virtual machines.

A few months ago I began running VMware Workstation 9 on Windows with a Windows guest to do Windows development. I created a separate virtual disk on my primary SSD to host code and database files while the OS loaded from my (much larger) HDD.

I found no perceptible degradation in speed.

With VMware Workstation-specific features such as Snapshots and the creation of a host-based Shared folder for essential files, I felt confident that I could always get back to a safe state with the virtual machine, or (worst case) recreate the virtual machine without losing data. And with weekly backups of the whole image, I was confident I’d never lose anything.


In October, I built a new development machine which I then re-built due to issues. Initially, I ran OS X Mountain Lion, and it worked great, but I had doubts about Mountain Lion’s longer-term stability on non-Apple hardware. As a consequence, I paved the drives.

My biggest consideration while searching for a new OS was once again running VMware Workstation. I considered Windows and various flavors of Linux before I finally settled on CentOS due to its very long-term support cycle, rock-solid stability and support for Workstation.

It’s a dream machine!

CentOS is simple to stand up and configure, it runs 24×7 without interruption and it hosts my VMs effortlessly.

The most obvious benefit is developing cross-platform solutions on multiple VMs without worrying about hardware, but it’s more than that. I can perform updates and changes to my CentOS VM before I update and change my host OS to ensure I don’t break my host. I can rollback changes on my VMs thanks to Workstations snapshots. I can very easily backup my entire suite of virtual disks. It’s fast. No really, it’s fast!

It’s really the way to go. I regret not doing such a setup years ago.

With this setup, I’m at ease knowing everything is safe. The host OS performs hourly and weekly backups and the VMs work nicely with my overall backup strategy: I backup the virtual machine images and shared data and I don’t worry about anything else.

Peace of mind.