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macOS Virtualization Types Available Through MacStadium

Anka, Orka and VMware logos

MacStadium is dedicated to providing the simplest path to macOS in the cloud for teams and organizations of all shapes and sizes. In addition to our bare metal Mac infrastructure, we offer three distinct options for virtualizing macOS in the cloud: Orka, VMware, and Anka.

Whether you're managing an on-prem network and need to extend your local environment to the cloud; you need an intuitive, highly scalable virtualization platform that natively supports containerized workflows; or you need continuity between local macOS VMs for development and cloud-based, virtualized CI/CD build nodes, MacStadium has got a solution for you.

Our macOS Virtualization Platform Offerings

Orka

Orka is a highly scalable, enterprise-ready macOS virtualization platform that utilizes Kubernetes and Docker under the hood and exposes certain features of these tools to end-users. Orka appeals to DevOps teams that want to easily manage their workflow from the command line or API while leveraging the same Kubernetes-based tools and workflows that they use to support other dev teams within the company.

With Orka, development teams can make immediate use of containerized workflows that they already use for non-Apple test and release workflows, which can dramatically reduce pipeline development overhead.

Even without any Kubernetes experience, Orka gives developers and DevOps teams the power to create and scale the Mac cloud environment they need to build and test their app. Orka’s simple commands make getting started a breeze, and Orka’s CI/CD plugins allow developers to use the tools they already know and love to work seamlessly with their build infrastructure.

VMware

VMware generally appeals to larger organizations that maintain on-prem data centers with VMware or those that use VMware-driven solutions elsewhere in the cloud. And while this is in no way a prerequisite for using VMware hosted by MacStadium, it is generally most attractive to those who do.

We offer the latest stable version of the VMware ESXi hypervisor on dedicated servers in all of our data centers. MacStadium VMware private cloud environments are deployed with VMware Enterprise Plus licensing which includes vSphere and the vCenter app for efficient management and scaling.

VMware Linked Clones allow for fast creation of virtual machines by copying a snapshot of a single parent VM and allow a VM to look and feel more like a container. It’s a great method for creating short-lived ephemeral VMs.

Anka

Developed by Veertu, Anka is a virtualization engine for CI projects specifically built for macOS. Anka uses the macOS Hypervisor.framework with external registry and controller nodes. Anka is custom-built to work as part of a CI workflow and can be integrated with existing container-based DevOps CI pipelines. Anka will generally appeal to teams that want a simple, intuitive, easy-to-use solution for virtualizing macOS, and don’t need to scale their CI/CD pipeline to hundreds of build agents.

Anka is unique in that it offers the ability to spin up macOS VMs locally in addition to the cloud, which can reduce the overhead of managing local development environments that align with remote build and test environments.

Like Orka, Anka is built solely for Mac and is quick to adopt new Mac hardware and operating systems.

Choosing the Right Platform for your Organization

Choosing a platform for virtualizing macOS CI/CD build nodes will depend on a variety of factors. First and foremost, it will require taking stock of the tooling your team is currently using in any existing CI/CD workflows and that which your team is most comfortable with, so as to reduce development time for your upcoming iOS or macOS app deployment.

Next, you’ll want to consider the scale at which your CI/CD pipeline will need to operate now and in the foreseeable future. If you anticipate a significant increase in the size of your development efforts, or you are already operating at scale, you’ll want to be sure to choose a platform that can support this in a highly performant way.

Finally, evaluating the cost per build for a given virtualization solution will be key to ensuring that you are getting the best value for your incurred expense. This will depend on the particulars of your product’s required CI/CD processes and your teams' areas of expertise.

At the time of publication, there are many commonalities between these solutions. All three…

  • Run on Intel-based Apple hardware (due to virtualization limitations on M1, none of the solutions are available for Apple silicon machines yet)
  • Support multiple versions of macOS, including the latest release (Big Sur)
  • Can create and run on-demand static or ephemeral VMs from stored images
  • Have APIs for automation, a CLI for command-line VM management, and web-based user interfaces
  • Can integrate with a custom in-house CI/CD platform via API or connect via plugins to popular CI/CD tools such as GitHub and Jenkins
  • Can leverage network-attached storage for expanded space to store images and artifacts
  • Allow virtual machines direct access to the GPU

So, which one is right for me? Development teams have different virtualization needs, so one solution may be a better fit than another. As a quick rule of thumb,

choose Orka if:

  • You need a highly scalable solution that is optimized for ephemeral VMs and resource management across concurrent builds
  • You want a developer-focused platform built on Kubernetes technology with dev-first user interfaces
  • You want access to standard tools like KubeCTL, KubeDashboard, Autoscaling, etc. to drive Mac infrastructure with built-in tools that you already have

choose Anka if:

  • You want to get started with macOS virtualization quickly and easily on the latest macOS release
  • You want a solution built specifically for macOS, running natively on Mac for optimized performance
  • You want the ability for your developers to pull VM images from a central registry, then work with VMs on their local machines

choose VMware if:

  • You want an industry-standard virtualization solution that has been fully proven and tested in enterprise environments
  • You already have experience with VMware and/or have VMware deployed elsewhere in your organization
  • You need something with a long track record and well-documented security and compliance

What about price? Costs can become comparable once licensing and hardware requirements are taken into consideration, but overall environment size and configuration will ultimately depend on your workload and use case. MacStadium’s sales engineers are experts in helping to size up the different options based on your specific requirements and budget.

Takeaways

MacStadium offers three flavors of virtualized macOS in the cloud – Orka, VMware, and Anka – all built on genuine, cloud-hosted, Apple Mac hardware in MacStadium’s enterprise-scale data centers. Each of these virtualization platforms has its own, distinct value proposition, and we’d love to help you evaluate each one to find the best fit for your team. Reach out to a MacStadium sales engineer to learn more about which option might be the best fit for your organization.  

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