Scott Drummonds on Virtualization

Running Apple OSX Lion on vSphere 5


In my last blog article I counted the ability to virtualize Apple’s new OSX Lion as one of the top 10 reasons for upgrading to VMware vSphere 5.  Aaron Hossain pointed out that an article I linked as support for this claim really suggested that virtualization on vSphere would not be supported by Apple.  Aaron’s question was interesting enough, and the answer complicated enough, that I want to include my reply in its own article.  Here is the scoop on OSX Lion on vSphere with new commentary not in my previous comment.

Apple makes it difficult to quote their End-user License Agreement (EULA) here.  I found the EULA using Apple’s App Store application on my Mac.  On the right sidebar of the Lion information screen is a link that says “App License Agreement”.  That brings you to the EULA, which is in a non-searchable, non-copyable textbox.  So, I’m retyping the relevant section here for discussion.  I have checked this twice and I think there are no typographical errors.

The operative phrase comes from Chapter 2 (“Permitted License Uses and Restrictions”), Section B (“License from Mac App Store”), Paragraph iii.  That section says users can “install, use and run up to two (2) additional copies or instances of the Apple Software within virtual operating system environments on each Mac Computer you own or control that is already running the Apple Software”. No one will argue that this wording will allow you to run Lion in a virtual machine on VMware Fusion on top of a Mac running Lion.

Because all VMware virtualization products use the same monitor, all of VMware’s products are capable of running virtual machines that run on any of them. This means that the Lion virtual machines running legally in Fusion on a Lion iMac should correctly run on vSphere after cold migration to another server. But will that be a license violation? Possibly.

Apple requires these virtual instances to be on Mac hardware. The HCL for vSphere 5 has not been released yet but it would be interesting if vSphere 5’s HCL included an Apple system. The EULA might then allow multiple Lion virtual machines on that ESX server. But we are not through the woods yet.

The EULA quote above says these virtual machines are only permitted on servers “already running the Apple Software”. I believe this wording is intended to require a native OSX install on the Apple hardware. This would mean no VMware hypervisor–just hosted virtualization like Fusion. But the phrasing is ambiguous.  If one Lion virtual machine is “already running”, subsequent virtual machine instantiations would not result in EULA violations.  The the administrator finds himself in a awkward position of defining what “already running” means among multiple concurrently active virtual machines.

I think reasonable people will agree that Apple’s intent is to restrict Lion virtual machines to hosted virtualization like VMware Fusion on top of other Macs running Lion.  If I am right, Apple is trying to block users from running OSX Lion on VMware vSphere 5.

However, VMware has a long (and proud!) history of allowing customers to pursue new strategies for datacenter efficiency that are beyond the limits of existing license models. One need only look at the pre-SVVP virtualization of Microsoft applications and current Oracle DB virtualization licensing to find examples of smart customers pushing the bounds of dumb license models. Historically, these progressive customers have forced the hand of vendors with stupid EULAs.  Often the vendors worked with their valued customers to provide exceptions.  This is common with Oracle’s customers.

By opening up the technical possibility of OSX virtualization and its support by VMware as a guest operating system, customers may choose to experiment with OSX virtualization on any VMware product.  It will then be up to customers, their interpretation of the license agreement, and their relationship with Apple to determine the future of OSX on vSphere.

8 Responses

Nice assessment for the letter and spirit of the EULA
We have folks clamoring for Mac virtual desktops
At $29.95 on the app store – Apple could sell a ton Lion instances if they chose to disambiguate.
I tried a Mac OS X install into vSphere 5 in the lab – it proceeds up to a point then craps out when it presumably does some mac HW specific check…

  • It would be if Apple were to harness the power of virtualization for itself (the new icloud service is reported to be running on vsphere beta) but not allow their clients to use the same power and flexibility.

  • […] 5 “Monster VM” (My Virtual Cloud) Top 10 Reasons to Upgrade to vSphere 5 (Pivot Point) Running Apple OSX Lion on vSphere 5 (Pivot Point) Unclear future for the free vSphere Hypervisor (Rickard Nobel) VMware’s Launch […]

  • You can get PDF of the Lion license here:


  • For those of you interested in the benefits of desktop virtualization for the Mac, check out Orchard Parc’s Opus solution.

    Opus Intelligent Desktop Virtualization for Mac provides a fully virtualized “Mac user persona” that offers a “follow me anywhere” logical Mac desktop. It is supported by VMware, Xen and Amazon cloud for high availability, auto backup, fault tolerance etc.

    Opus = Mac + Enterprise class virtual infrastructure + Central management + Automation + Data security

  • what a load of bull.

  • According to:
    there’s nothing wrong: VMware expanded HW support to install on Apple XServer and only in this way all will be legal and clear.

  • vSphere now supports the MacPro 5.1 as a server, and OSX 10 as a guest, so you can bring all the business continuity and server consolidation that vSphere provides to OSX systems.