1) get (free) vmware player from vmware.com
2) get basic vmx files from easyvmx.com, remembering to mount your local CD-rom in the virtual settings
3) start the empty VM in the player, and install CentOS from the CD/DVD
VMWare has a rather confusing list of products, but I think the one you want here is VMWare Server - it will allow you to run the VMs without having to manually start them up.
Networking in VMWare comes in 3 flavors:
1. VM guest has a discrete external IP address
2. VM guest appears to have the same IP address as the vm host, courtesy of NAT/DHCP
3. VM guest is networked via a private virtual LAN segment that's only visible between host and guest (hostonly)
The actual networking is done via a virtual NIC to a virtual subnet. You can define multiple virtual NICs in a VM guest. I have one that uses both host-only and DHCP NICs, as an example.
There's a separate GUI VMWare tool to configure these subnets when configuring a Windows host. As originally installed, I believe vmnet1 and vmnet8 are pre-configured.
To install CentOS, create a blank VM image with about 5GB for the system disk and at least 256MB virtual RAM. Select "Red Hat Enterprise" as the guest OS in the VM configurator. Make sure you have the CD/DVD device configured if booting from media or set up a kickstart server in the usual way. Once the basic "cold iron" VM is prepped, boot it as though it was a physical machine and run the CentOS install process.
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I have VMWare Server 2 running on my desktop (Vista Ultimate 64-bit) and have installed various flavors of *nix (Fedora, Ubuntu, SUSE, OpenSolaris) and have not had any networking issues. However, VMWare gives you three networking options and at times you have to try each of them to see which one works. And in some cased you need to goggle for help (OpenSolaris required some very creative steps to convince it to use the DNS). In all fairness, I even have to juggle the networking options to host different flavors of Windows.
Which OS you run as the host OS should be entirely based on which OS you are more familiar or comfortable with.
David O'Meara wrote:I run VirtualBox, but the networking is not as easy or mature as VMWare Player, so if you're trying for a virtual server then the VMWare option may be easier.
I don't know if Manoj has any special needs with regards to networking, but I have VirtualBox running on 64-bit Ubuntu 8.04, running several Linux distro's and Windows XP in virtual boxes, and networking just works with the default settings in all of the guest OSes, without needing to do any special configuration.