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VMware will not support macOS as a guest OS via its own hardware version technology

Overview

What has been announced?

As far as I can make out from a blog post and a support note (links below), guest operating system support for latest macOS versions on VMware Fusion will be discontinued in upcoming release 13.0 of VMware Fusion and at end of support for ESXi 7.0. At that point a deprecated support level will be provided to legacy macOS certified versions which support the VMware hardware version technologies in ESXi and Fusion but only for legacy Intel based Mac computers. Apple silicon macOS guests will never be able to be supported at all.

Wait, what?

A guest operating system is an operating system that is secondary to the OS originally installed on a computer, which is known as the host operating system. VMware have always had their own technology known as the VMware hardware version, which reflects the virtual machine's supported virtual hardware features on ESXi and Fusion. VMware say they will continue to attempt to test and certify new macOS releases for use as a guest on Fusion for Intel based Macs for as long as VMware Fusion is a production product for Intel Macs. These existing macOS VM's would be ones which have been created and run using a particular VMware hardware version. VMware go on to say that they cannot commit to supporting any future macOS operating systems releases as a guest OS on Fusion. My speculation is that this could be because of a requirement from Apple to use Apple's Virtualization framework, introduced in macOS 11, for virtualisation of macOS, particuarly on Apple silicon.

In the VMware Fusion tech preview for Mac computers with Apple siliconm, a new hardware version 20 supports guest operating systems such as various flavours of Linux and Windows 10 and 11. My speculation is that VMware hardware technology cannot be used to support the Apple Virtualization framework introduced in macOS 11 for creating and running a macOS VM the Apple way. As well as having new mechanisms to create and manage guests, while respecting Apple's security requirements, the Apple Virtualisation framework also enforces Apples End User Licence Agreement by limiting the number of guests to 2.

VMware Fusion tech preview (TP 22H2) shipped last week with hardware version 20 and guest support for various flavours of Linux and Unix. Fusion also supports Windows 10 and 11 on Mac computers which are Intel based and Mac computers with Apple silicon. And it is rocket ship fast on Apple silicon. But VMware Fusion contained the cryptic release note "macOS guest VM - Not currently supported". I guess that based on the two recent announcements (VMware does not plan to support latest macOS versions as a GOS on Fusion going forward. (88697) and vSphere ESXi 7.x will be last version to officially support Apple macOS Virtualization), that this can be updated now to "macOS guest VM - Will never be supported". Unless VMware Fusion can be modified to support Apple's Virtualization framework for Apple silicon based Macs, and theres a hint that it might, this is probably the clearest sign of the end of the road for me. By the end of the year I planned to be all Apple silicon. I need macOS virtualisation. Thats my main requirement for development abd testing.

VMware will not support macOS as a guest OS via its own hardware version technology

macOS as a guest on ESXi end of life, macOS as a guest in Fusion Intel only

Contents

Both Fusion and ESXi reach end of line for macOS guests

macOS virtualisation for desktops and servers

VMWare Fusion has provided desktop (and Macbook) support for virtualisation for years now, ever since Apple allowed it to be possible on Apple hardware, through a change to their end user license agreement back with Mac OS X Server 10.5. VMware has also certified Apple Mac computers including the Mac Mini and the Mac Pro for use with ESXi, its enterprise level virtualisation technology since the days of the first certified Apple Computer for ESXi, the Xserve. There is an equivalent announcement from VMware that ESXi 7.x will be the last major release to officially suport virtualisation on macOS. ESXi 7.x will be supported through to 2025 for most customers. So thats it.

End of line.

Windows 10 and Windows 11

Running Windows as a guest OS on VMware Fusion

My opinion may be jaded as I only need Windows once a year for an annoying Tax program for the UK which only runs on Windows because of a completely tragic set of dependencies on .Net Framework and Infragistics controls. It has a truly dreadful user experience but it provides a way to complete the special tax form I need to use here in the UK. Were it not for that I would have completely ceased active Windows use altogether for reasons.

Theres a limitation in that VMware Fusion can only run the guest OS specific to the architecture of the host. An Intel based VMware Fusion host Mac will be able to run Intel Windows guests, an Apple silicon based VMware Fusion host Mac will be able to run arm64/aarch64 Windows guests. This makes complete sense. Also you will need to provide a valid licence and there is no retail arm64/aarch64 Windows licence program at this time. There are other licences available from Microsoft so you will need to become acquainted with those routes for valid licencing before being able to complete a VMware Fusion Apple silicon Mac host installation of Windows 10 or 11 for arm64/aarch64 as a guest OS.

I find it disappointing that VMware Fusion can and will support Windows 10 and Windows 11 on Intel and Apple silicon based Mac computers and yet not be able to do so for macOS.

macOS

Running macOS as a guest OS on VMware Fusion

According to these announcements from VMware, you will only be able to run macOS as a guest on an Intel based Mac. You may not be able to run macOS Ventura, but it would seem that you can continue to run Mac OS X Server 10.5 and 10.6, OS X 10.7-10.11 and macOS 10.12-12.x - right up to MacOS Monterey. On Apple silicon macs you will not be able to have a macOS guest at all. This seems deliberate given that competitors and new market entrants have already started shipping just such capabilities. It is not for me to reason why but I imagine that development resources versus revenue plus Apple policy complexities or even possibly Apple competitive products on the horizon have a part to play in this decision from VMware. It is very disappointing. (I have no inside knowledge - just speculation). What is jarring to me though, is that Windows will be supported by VMware Fusion for the most recent release, for both processor architectures, but macOS will be left behind on Apple silicon based Mac computers.

Intel based Mac 'Servers'

Using ESXi as a host for macOS guests on a supported high end Intel based Mac

VMware administrators have been able to creatively deliver macOS workloads for their enterprise users for over a decade. The virtual machines were compatible between ESXi and Fusion. The Mac Pro and the Mac Mini made it to VMwares hardware compatibility list and could be massively specified. Apple even grudgingly released a rackmount version of the Intel Mac Pro 2019 although I assume its quieter it doesn't really have the features the 2009 Xserve 3,1 had for data centre use - making it more of a recording studio / creative studio machine. Anyway, thats all over now. Apple are well into their migration to Apple Silicon. I only know one person in the world who has a rackmount Mac Pro. Apple silicon provides incredible capability that makes these Intel workhorses obsolete.

Alternatives

What alternatives exist?

I'll review and update this article periodically. There are a couple of really interesting but bleeding edge tehnologies to consider. I'd rather put my trust in VMware but so be it. I think Howard Oakley knows more about this technology than anyone outside of Apple or VMware, so this announcement is noteworthy for that! I havent tried it yet, but will report back.

Introducing Viable, to virtualise macOS on Apple silicon Macs

"For those who want to experiment with virtualising macOS on Apple silicon Macs, I’m delighted to offer my own experiment at last, Viable. This is early beta software built using a beta release of Xcode and beta Virtualization features on a beta release of macOS, so anything could happen. That said, I’ve only experienced one crash during recent testing on both macOS 12.4 and 13 beta, and that occurred when building two VMs in succession."

To run Viable, you must have:

  • an Apple silicon Mac; it won’t run on any Intel model;
  • macOS Monterey 12.4 or later;
  • virtual machines built with macOS Monterey or Ventura, which Viable will build for you.

It comes with a ReadMe file and the same information built into a basic Help window.



References

See also: