Server NewsVMware Looks to Spruce Up Virtual Appliances

VMware Looks to Spruce Up Virtual Appliances

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VMware is taking steps to simplify creating and managing virtual appliances with new updates unveiled yesterday at VMworld 2008, its user conference running this week in Las Vegas.

New efforts aim to simplify and encourage enterprises’ use of pre-built software delivered through the technology.

A virtual appliance bundles one or more virtual machines containing a fully preinstalled and preconfigured application, complete with operating system. Offering software in virtual appliance format enables vendors to package their apps in a format designed to be easy for server admins to set up and run.

VMware is aiming to expand adoption of the technology by making it easier to create virtual appliances, courtesy of the introduction of its free VMware Studio tool. The company this week also updated its virtual appliance certification program, now renamed to the VMware Ready Program.

The idea of virtual appliances is not new, but the concept is receiving increasing attention because of the relative ease by which users can get their software up and running on virtualized hardware. In addition to simplifying IT administrators’ task of installing applications, vendors who use virtual appliances also stand to benefit from the technology, since they can reduce development and testing time by selecting only the optimal OS for their appliances. They can also streamline the OS by removing unneeded components.

VMware already has 900 software vendors who are offering virtual machine packages through its Virtual Appliance Marketplace, formerly known as the VMTN Virtual Appliances Directory.

VMware Studio, which can be downloaded from VMware’s Web site, enables vendors to build customized virtual appliances that can be shipped in Open Virtual Machine Format (OVF), a set of guidelines developed by a number of virtualization industry players.

Alex Bakman, founder and CEO of virtual appliance vendor VKernel, likes VMware Studio. It “will help organizations maintain multiple copies of virtual machines, which is a really good thing,” he told

OVF support is also a key development, he said. The format bundles virtual appliances in XML (define) metadata — providing for portability and interoperability with competing, OVF-compatible virtualization platforms. The format has been submitted to the Distributed Management Task Force, an industry association, for approval as a standard.

Support for OVF is “a great idea,” Bakman added. “It makes deployment for virtual appliances, which is easy to begin with, absolutely a snap.”

Tapping into partners

VMware’s also taking new steps to promote the technology by strengthening its web of partnerships built around virtual appliances.

The VMware Ready Program for virtual appliances, announced yesterday, is an update to the vendor’s certification program launched back in 2006. Early participants in the marketplace were B-Hive, purchased by VMware in May, and Red Hat Linux, which recently threw the open source virtualization market in an uproar when it purchased open source hypervisor player Qumranet.

New partners include Novell (NASDAQ: NOVL), which said its SUSE Linux Enterprise is now verified as VMware Ready and will be offered through VMware’s Virtual Appliance Marketplace.

IBM (NYSE: IBM) yesterday announced at VMworld 2008 that its Information On Demand Analytics solution, which consists of Cognos 8 Business Intelligence Reporting and the InfoSphere Warehouse, is similarly available as a virtual appliance.

“VMware Ready virtual appliances are a building block for IBM solutions and services that target the small and medium business market segment and emerging cloud platforms,” Arvind Krishna, IBM’s vice president, data management and worldwide information management development, said.

Other VMware partners announcing support for the VMware Studio and VMware Ready programs include VMware parent company EMC (NYSE: EMC), JumpBox, SAP’s (NYSE: SAP) Business Objects unit, enterprise cloud platform provider Terremark (NASDAQ: TMRK) and security vendor Trend Micro.

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