Question on Assigning USB HW to Virtual boxes

Dan Egli ddavidegli at
Thu Oct 3 03:09:13 MDT 2013

Here's a question I was asked last night and I honestly didn't know the
answer to. Perhaps someone here can help me out.

A friend and I were discussing the pros/cons of virtual computers (i.e.
Xen, Vmware, VirtualBox, QEMU, etc....) and one thing that brought me up
short was assigning USB devices to the virtual computers. Can you separate
identical USB devices and assign one each to a virtual box?

For example, the scenario he gave me was that he might want to have
multiple USB optical drives connected to the host computer, each with a
different disk in it. Assuming that the drives are all identical (i.e. he
went out and bought six USB DVD+/-RW drives from Staples, just pulled six
identical units off the shelf), is there a way in the virtualization
software (either the free software or the paid things like Vmware
workstation or even Vmware GSX server) to assign a specific DVD drive to a
specific virtual box? I said that I would think so, since each optical
drive would be a separate device in /dev (i.e. /dev/scd0, /dev/scd1,
etc....) But what about things that might not show up as block devices? Off
the top of my head, one we discussed was 3D printers. Could you hook up say
three 3D printers, and have each printer controlled from a different
virtual box? I am sure there are other devices that would be in the a
similar boat. They may show up as character devices, or other non-block
type devices.

If anyone does know of such a software, I'd love to hear about it. It
obviously needs to support Linux as both HOST and GUEST. The ability to
generate a new MAC address for it's virtual ethernet adapter would be a
nice plus, but not required. That would just let the virtual machines be
granted separate addresses via DHCP. A nice time saver, but the time spent
configuring ethernet adapters with manual IPs is a small price to pay for
the money that could be saved by virtualizing such a project.


--- Dan

More information about the PLUG mailing list