Virtualization with 3d support
March 13, 2011 4:18 PM   Subscribe

OS X virtualization? 3D-accelerated Windows 7 virtualization?

I would like to transition to a system where the host OS is only used to launch various virtualized OSes, with the virtualized ones being what I actually use for everything.

The primary goals are OS X and Windows 7, with Windows having enough 3d horsepower to run Aero AND, hopefully, midrange 3D games at modest resolutions and framerates. (Like, say, Starcraft II @ 1024x768 and 30fps.)

I'll also like to run Linux, but I assume every virtualization program will be capable of doing that, so it's being assumed as a given.

Have these problems been solved? I don't mind paying for a virtualization program, but open source is way better in my mind. Also, while I don't mind buying Mac hardware if I have to, I do *not* want to settle for running Mac OS X as the host operating system (unless doing so allows me to run OS X as a virtualized OS as well).

Again, a primary goal is to completely virtualize all the OSes that are actually used for everyday computing.
posted by jsturgill to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
From a legal point of view, OSX means you have to run it on a mac.

That aside - the main blocker here I find is video drivers. Something like Xen can theoretically do what you want - but it will fall short when it comes to video.

I believe the answer at this point is "not really, maybe" - but virtualization has really improved in the last decade. Ensure you have enough RAM and cpu in the system, which you'll need regardless, and it won't really matter what the host OS is.

Get a beefy machine, run some good virtualization software and just go at it.... the overhead of the OS isn't so bad as you think.
posted by TravellingDen at 4:53 PM on March 13, 2011

Citrix XenServer is the only bare-metal hypervisor to my knowledge that has the kind of 3D support you're after: the free version doesn't allow the flexibility to get Aero working, and the paid version ain't cheap, because it's designed for enterprise server deployment.

The best cheap option is probably Parallels Desktop, which supports Aero if you have an Nvidia 9400 card, but that's not really what you're after, and as TravellingDen says, you're flirting with licensing issues if you want to run OS X (non-Server) as a VM.
posted by holgate at 5:06 PM on March 13, 2011

caveat: I know nothing about mac.

On an x86 to x86 platform, VMWare "claims" to have open GL and Direct X compatibility, but don't expect much.

Oracle's virtual box is even shakier. (At least from a linux perspective, I haven't tried windows).

So does mac expose the native graphics or is there a virtualized layer ?

Remember that virutalization software is meant to offer the OS on whatever/any hardware, and usually is used for business type applications, not something like gaming..
posted by k5.user at 5:06 PM on March 13, 2011

if you want to virtualise OSX you're in for a world of fun. and when I say "fun" I mean "not fun".

legally, OSX can only be virtualized if it's the server version and the hardware is from Apple (the server requirement may become moot if "Server" just becomes an optional component in the client installs as has been rumoured for 10.7). for now, though, only the OSX desktop virtualization solutions (parallels, virtualbox, vmware) support OSX virtualization, and poorly at that.
posted by russm at 6:31 PM on March 13, 2011

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