VMWare, in its Workstation and GSX Server variants, can connect the virtual network interface to the network in three different ways. To the operating system running in the virtual machine (the VM), they all look the same. By themselves, these connection types are not well suited for use in a wide-area, multi-site environment, as we describe below.
The simplest connection is ``bridged'', meaning that VMWare uses the physical interface of the Host to directly emulate the virtual interface in the VM. This emulation is not visible to programs running on the Host. With a bridged connection, the VM shows up as another machine on the Local environment, the LAN of the Host. This creates a network management problem for the Local environment (What is this new machine that has suddenly appeared?) and for the User (Will this machine be given network connectivity? How? What's its address? Can I route to it?). Furthermore, if the VM is moved to a Host on a different network, the problems recur, and new ones rear their ugly head (Has the address to the VM changed? What about all its open connections and related state?)
The next form of connection is the host-only connection. Here, a virtual interface is created on the Host which is connected to the virtual interface in the VM. When brought up with the appropriate private IP addresses and routes, this enables programs on the host to talk to programs on the VM. Because we need to be able to talk to the VM from the Client and other machines, host-only networking is insufficient. However, it also has the minimum possible interaction with network administration in the Local environment.
The final form of connection is via network address translation (NAT), a commonly used technique in border routers and firewalls . Similar to a host-only connection, a virtual interface on the Host is connected to the virtual interface on the VM, and appropriate private IP addresses and routes are assigned. In addition, a daemon running on the Host receives IP packets on the interface. For each outgoing TCP connection establishment (SYN), it rewrites the packet to appear to come from the IP address of the Host's regular interface, from some unused port. It records this mapping from the IP address and port on the VM to the address and port it assigned. Mappings can also be explicitly added for incoming TCP connections or UDP traffic. When a packet arrives on the regular interface for the IP and port, it rewrites it using the recorded mapping and passes it to the VM. To the outside world, it simply appears that the Host is generating ordinary packets. To the VM, it appears as if it has a direct connection to the Local environment. For our purposes, NAT networking is insufficient because it is painful to make incoming traffic work correctly as the mappings must be established manually. Furthermore, in some cases it would be necessary for the IP address of the virtual machine to change when it is migrated, making it impossible to maintain connections.