What I have:
A desktop machine with a 3GHz AMD64 quad core processor, with 4G of ram, and dual monitors, and swappable SATA drive bays a SATA drive with Ubuntu 11.10 a SATA drive with Windows 7 (and a couple of SATA drives onto which I do my backups)
To date, I've been satisfied with swapping drives to boot Windows or Linux. I'll be starting a project, soon, that will involve developing some software that will both run on and build on both Windows and Linux. It'd be easier to develop and test if I had both a Windows and a Linux system running simultaneously. And I have to say I'm not really happy with the state of my Linux desktop, after the upgrade to Ubuntu 11.10. I'd like to be able to play around with the various distributions, to see which, if any of them, I might move to as my primary environment.
The obvious answer is virtualization. My CPU supports VM extensions, and it's got enough oomph to handle a few VMs.
So, I'm looking for an OS to host a VM system, and a VM system, to use on a desktop system, where my primary desktop environment will be running in one of the VMs, rather than the host.
What I want is a host and a VM system that will get out of the way - where the overhead of logging in and opening up a console to a VM is as minimal as possible.
In my ideal world, I'd sit down at my desk and see a chooser, similar to XDM/GDM, where I could select which machine I wanted to log in to, and where I'd not need to log into the host at all. Except, of course, that some of the machines I might want to log into aren't running X11, they're running Windows, or who knows what else. So I don't expect to get there.
But how close can I get?
Can I log into the host, start the VM console app, and have it take full control of both monitors, so that I can forget entirely that there's a host machine running the UI?
I'm open to spending some, but not a lot of, money, in putting this together. VMWare's Workstation is $200 - that's about the limit of what I'd be willing to spend, if it better met my needs that the free VM solutions.