Any good web company will tell you that one of the most important stages of development is the testing phase. However, with so many different types of machines, operating systems, and browsers, how can you test sites efficiently without having an arsenal of computers littered around the office? The answer is to go virtual.
You can think of a virtual machine (VM) as one small slice of a large pizza. It allows one machine to have multiple operating systems installed on it by creating partitions. Partitioning is when you take a large hard drive and split it into different sections, or partitions. Each partition acts like its own individual hard drive on which you can do anything you would do on a normal computer.
What are the benefits to this setup?
- One physical machine can essentially run several different types of computers
- Each VM has a specific role, allowing for high performance and efficiency
- Each VM can be allotted resources (RAM, processing) based on its need
- Can easily access different operating environments without leaving your personal machine (essential for testing websites).
- Can save a company thousands of dollars since only one set of hardware is needed
One of the small things I enjoy about my job is creating and naming each of our VMs. Here is a quick run down of some of the VMs Mindscape has at its disposal:
- Doppleganger: This is our host (the one physical machine containing all the VMs). Aptly named because it can take on many different shapes (think of the blue mutant woman from X-men!).
- Gramps: Windows XP partition. Used mainly for testing sites in IE 7.
- Overseer: A partition that is used to monitor the health of all of our networks and alert us of any potential hazards.
- Ra: An emergency development sandbox containing several essential programs and software. Used for creating sites if any personal machines go down (ie, hard drive crash!)
- Sherlock: A handy partition that allows us to compare different versions of our databases to quickly access and restore accidentally deleted items.
- Skynet: A just-for-fun partition containing the beta release of the upcoming (soon?) Windows 8. It’s cool to jump in here and see how the next Windows OS will look. My opinion: it’s… different. Based totally on apps, it’s like having a mobile phone on your desktop.
- Space Ghost: A power and resource hog used for video editing and compression. This partition is extremely useful since videos can sometimes take hours to render.
Now go and enjoy the blank/bored stares you’ll get from your friends when you tell them how much you know about virtual machines!