Ubuntu Virtual Machine

Ubuntu is a modern operating system built with virtualization in mind. It can be run as a virtual machine or as a host with guest operating systems. It can run as a container or it can be used to host containers. It is at home running on cloud/IaaS systems like AWS or GCE. An Ubuntu virtual machine is an incredibly common use case.

Running as a Virtual Machine

There are different reasons why you might want to run Ubuntu as a virtual machine. You might want to just try it out without having to allocate an entire system for it. You might want to use it as a testing system. It could be your preferred development platform. You might be planning to use it to power a server in a business environment. Ubuntu is equipped with tools that make all of these scenarios possible. The first thing you’re going to want to know is whether you are going to be running it as a desktop system or an Ubuntu server system. You could theoretically run one system as both but that wouldn’t really be worth doing especially if you’re just running a VM. You would be better off just running two VMs.

The second thing you’re going to want to be sure about is what host system you will be using. This will affect your choice of virtualization software and how it will be setup.

You are going to need to select which virtualization system you want to use. You have a lot of options to choose from. Let’s skip cloud and containerization systems for now and just focus on VMs. You have a bunch of options including the following VMWare, VirtualBox, KVM, Xen, Qemu, Parallels, and Virtual PC.

Ubuntu on VMWare

VMware is one of the most popular and widely used virtualization systems out there. It can be run as a hypervisor ( ESXi ) on a server or as a desktop solution ( VMWare Workstation ). Either one can be used to host either an Ubuntu desktop system or an Ubuntu server system. If you want to run something in production, usually for a business, you will probably want to go with ESXi. It brings you closer to the hardware and will give you faster speeds. If you just want to be able to install VMs for testing or development on your desktop or laptop, you will probably want VMWare Workstation. The disadvantage of VMWare is that it isn’t free. ESXi will need to be paid for (except for a trial period). VWare workstation also cost money. There is a free version of VMWare workstation but doesn’t have all of the same functionality. It will get you up and running but won’t for example allow you to just clone a VM like you can in the paid version.

VMWare will run Ubuntu as a guest OS. VMWare workstation can be run on Ubuntu and other Linux distros. It can also be run from Windows and OSX.


Virtualbox is a great choice if you want something that is free and just works. It comes in a workstation version only. It doesn’t work as a hypervisor it isn’t quite as fully featured or as flexible as VMWare but it still works great. In a lot of ways it may work better than the free version of VMWare. For example, you can clone VMs without any issue. It isn’t geared towards production server usage since it doesn’t run as a hypervisor. You can still install Ubuntu Server edition on it if you want to test out running different types of servers. It can run just about any guest OS you might want, including Ubuntu. It also runs on Ubuntu as well as Centos or other Linux distros. It can be run from Windows or OSX allowing you to run Ubuntu if your primary desktop is any of these.

On a side note, if you don’t want to bother going through the Ubuntu install process, you can download VM images for both VMware and Virtual Box from this site: http://www.osboxes.org/