Getting started with Linux virtualization

With all the Linux distributions available, trying out more than one can be tempting. By installing a virtual environment, you can run several operating systems on your machine, keeping them completely isolated from each other in their own sandboxes. Here's a look at how get started with three popular virtualization environments: VMware, VirtualBox, and QEMU.

In a virtual ecosystem, a host operating system runs one or more guest virtual machines in a simulated environment. Each guest believes it has all of the host's physical hardware at its disposal.

You cannot do much virtualization with a small, slow machine, but current-day multi-CPU computers, with 32- or 64-bit architectures and RAM capacity measured in gigabytes, can easily do the job. I used to run virtual machines on a Pentium III with 512KB of RAM, and while the performance was acceptable, it wasn't exactly astounding. I changed to a dual-core box with 4GB RAM, and now I notice no difference in speed and responsiveness between the host and the guest machines.