ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Discussions related to using VirtualBox on Mac OS X hosts.

Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby mstekker » 14. Nov 2020, 15:19

mpack wrote:What I said is absolutely, fully true. Wishing otherwise will have no effect. Sure, you can do an ARM hypervisor, but who does that help?

And in any case: an ARM hypervisor would have to be developed from scratch. It's not a port of VirtualBox.


Ok, if so, then there is no future for VB on the Mac because all future Macs will be Apple Silicon based (ARM). Bad news and good to know for further decisions.

It would help me ;) because I could run Linux VMs (and later an ARM Windows) on the Mac....
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby mpack » 15. Nov 2020, 10:13

mstekker wrote:then there is no future for VB on the Mac

Agreed, if ARM is the only option. OTOH there may be no future for ARM MACs. IMHO Apple are taking a big risk by distancing themselves so radically from the established business world. Sure they'll still have Office apps and email, but there's a lot more to the x86 ecosystem than that. There's a reason why Apple abandoned PowerPC and switched to Intel, back in the Steve Jobs era.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby dmischa » 15. Nov 2020, 13:22

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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby mpack » 15. Nov 2020, 16:25

How so?

First of all, that page is clearly discussing an Intel based hypervisor API. It will have to change radically for ARM, or more likely the API will be dropped altogether. If changed for ARM it will be of absolutely zero help for running x86 Windows apps.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby dmischa » 15. Nov 2020, 16:59

mpack wrote:Shows the way where? Shows whom?

As I already said in an earlier post:
mpack wrote:Sure, you can do an ARM hypervisor, but who does that help?


It helps running e.g. ARM Linux on your Mac.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby mpack » 15. Nov 2020, 17:01

How is that an answer to the question asked in the topic title? The OP is clearly under the impression that porting VirtualBox will allow users to run x86 on an ARM based Mac.

How much money will Oracle make by allowing Apple Mac users to run ARM based Linux?
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby dmischa » 15. Nov 2020, 17:09

mpack wrote:That is irrelevant to the question asked in the topic title.


sorry, but it is relevant to the Linux part of the question
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby dmischa » 15. Nov 2020, 17:16

mpack wrote:
How much money will Oracle make by allowing Apple Mac users to run ARM based Linux?


don‘t know
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby dtpoirot » 16. Nov 2020, 11:08

The AArch64 instruction set supports a Type 1 hypervisor.

The Xen Type 1 already runs on the Raspberry Pi.

Thinking there will ever be a VirtualBox on ARM Macs is a fancy dream. What OS would it run?

Wishing there will ever be an Apple-signed Secure Boot Linux is a fantasy. Is there one for the iPhone???
Last edited by dtpoirot on 16. Nov 2020, 11:44, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby dtpoirot » 16. Nov 2020, 11:44

...make no mistake, the M1 Mac is not a general purpose computer with a BIOS or UEFI. It is an iPad with a keyboard. Apple code from cold boot to iMessage.

The Reality Distortion Field is strong with the Apple fanboi camp. Sure, there will be an army of early adopters, and the battery life will be a game changer, but they will be running apps from the App Store - with ALL of the openness and diversity iPhone users enjoy.

Rosetta 2 is a 'translation environment'. It tries to translate x86_64 instructions to AArch64 - if possible. Nothing new here. We had this in the PowerPC days.

The real surprise is that the Apple Xcode 12 compiler suite will default to 'Universal Binaries' - huge code blobs which include both X86_64 and AArch64 versions in the same app - just like the 'Fat Binaries' from the PowerPC -> Intel migration days.


...so the Xcode 12 compiled version of the Type 2 VirtualBox Manager app will already run on the AArch64 M1 Mac - if you could get it to load. There will just be nothing for IT to run!
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby DanielG » 17. Nov 2020, 21:08

Seems like we have a little bit of noise here preventing communication. Let me try to get this straight.

* VirtualBox cannot be (AFAIK) compiled for ARM *today*. It includes low level CPU-dependent code that can only run on a x86/amd64 CPU.
* It probably could be *ported* to compile with ARM, by replacing those x86-only bits, but it is a non-trivial effort.
* That would not be enough, thoug. VirtualBox not only virtualizes the CPU, but also certain key peripherials: system memory, various bus controllers (PCI, USB), hard disk controllers, sound cards, graphics... Basically anything that can be on the motherboard and is required for booting. This is what "VB is a PC simulator" means.
* There's the additional difficulty that, outside the PC world, no standarization exists on the platform. You could write a simulator for some Android devices, or for the Raspberry Pi, but it would allow you to run just that: a virtual Android device or a virtual RPI. To boot ARM macOS you would need a Mac simulator "pack".

So, not that it is an impossible task, but certainly it would be a good amount of work.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby scottgus1 » 17. Nov 2020, 21:15

DanielG is mostly correct. Virtualbox does not 'virtualize' the CPU. The physical CPU is the only piece of physical hardware that reaches the VM's OS.

x86 instructions from the VM get passed to the CPU and back. There might be a hint of translating one instruction to something else, but no "this ARM instruction comes in, these x86 instructions go out" or the other way around, like an emulator does.

So if Virtualbox were ported by someone to ARM, it is highly likely only ARM OS's and ARM apps could run in it. You would not be able to run Windows on your Mac, unless Microsoft ports Windows to ARM too. (There is Windows for IoT, which can run in a Raspberry Pi, but that's not full Windows.)

Ultimately, "Will Virtualbox be ported and When" cannot be answered here on the forum. We are only fellow users here, and the devs never reveal if and when they might do something.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby mpack » 18. Nov 2020, 11:47

Sorry, but even if VirtualBox was ported to ARM, not even an ARM OS could run on it (and it is quite certain that no modern x86 OS could).

Because, as Daniel and myself have already pointed out, a PC consists of much more than the CPU. It also has I/O controllers, disks, network cards, graphics cards, keyboards, monitors, etc etc etc. It also has an ecosystem of standards for BIOS, booting, assigning primary I/O devices, networking, clipboards, etc, all accumulated over nearly 40 years of PC development.

Virtually none of these formal and de-facto standards exist for any ARM based device, and you can't make a working PC without it, regardless of what the CPU is. Sure you could create a VM that's a clone of a specific device, but that requires a completely new suite of hardware simulations to be developed, and all your VM could do is run the OS for that device, because one device does not make a hardware standard.

I'm trying to cut to the nub here (cut through the Reality Distortion Field as "dtpoirot" put it). On this occasion being conciliatory just offers false hope.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby macandroid » 18. Nov 2020, 19:22

mpack wrote:Sorry, but even if VirtualBox was ported to ARM, not even an ARM OS could run on it (and it is quite certain that no modern x86 OS could).

So how do VMware and Parallels this on an M1 Mac ?
Last edited by mpack on 19. Nov 2020, 11:29, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Trim verbatim quote of immediately preceding post.
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Re: ARM Macs: Will Virtualbox be ported ?

Postby multiOS » 18. Nov 2020, 19:54

They don't! They currently work on Big Sur on Intel Macs only, as does VirtualBox. It's a concept/ambition only at present!

Parallels developers appear to have committed to trying to develop a version for the M1 Chip, but no such software currently exists. Please also remember that attempting to compare the (possible) business development decisions of commercial product developers that seek to make profit primarily from repeated retail sales/annual purchases by individual users with OpenSource/Freeware software development that is dependent on large enterprises purchasing software support contracts is a bit like comparing apples with tomatoes. - Both are fruit but you wouldn't put both in a fruit salad.
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