Posted by Srinivas Krishnamurti
Director of Virtual Appliances
Dan Chu, Raghu Raghuram and Steve Herrod have all talked about virtual appliances and the changing role of the operating system in their recent blogs. I’m going to add a couple of points about recent announcements and explore the new trend that virtual appliances are driving in enterprise software.
Virtual appliances are pre-built, pre-configured and ready-to-run enterprise software applications packaged along with an operating system within virtual machines. Virtual appliances are fundamentally changing the application stack and how it is packaged and distributed, enabling ISVs to develop self-contained and optimized application stacks that are easy to deploy, run on any hardware, and are more secure and reliable. With the new VMware Virtual Appliance Certification Program, VMware will work closely with ISVs to ensure virtual appliances are optimized to run on VMware products. Let’s talk a bit about the benefits of virtual appliances for both ISVs and customers.
Benefits to ISVs:
- By picking one OS to work with, ISVs no longer have to worry about OS idiosyncrasies or at least they have to consider only one set of idiosyncrasies, which reduces code complexity.
- From a QA perspective, the testing matrix can be vastly simplified because QA can strictly focus on testing the virtual appliance because that’s what customers are going to deploy.
- ISVs can now package up their software along with an OS of their choice. They can optimize the application for the selected OS to ensure higher performance and usability out of the box. They can remove all the unnecessary components of the OS leading to a much thinner and more secure operating system. All of this makes the application more stable and reliable than ever before.
- By distributing virtual appliances, ISVs can reduce support costs in supporting evaluations, proof of concepts and production deployments. Virtual appliances are packaged as simple files – if you can copy files and click on ‘power on’ in an intuitive UI, you can get an application running instantaneously.
Benefits to customers:
- Easy to deploy enterprise software: if you can copy files and click on ‘power on,’ your application is working immediately. This reduces time to value.
- Every application is configured correctly by the ISV who has most knowledge about the application. If something doesn’t work, the ISV will immediately know the configuration without having to explain the OS patch level and what services are enabled or disabled in the OS, etc. The buck stops with the ISV.
- With a certified virtual appliance, the ISV asserts that it is optimized for all VMware products and that the ISV fully supports the product deployed on VMware virtualization.
- Optimized and efficient hardware utilization and availability i.e. easily run multiple applications on the same hardware because virtualization provides robust isolation between the systems such that if one virtual appliance crashes, it doesn’t bring down all the virtual appliances running on the physical box.
With virtual appliances, we have a way to streamline the packaging and distribution of enterprise software that is more stable, optimized for the deployment platform, reliable and secure than ever before. Let me digress for a quick second….
Being the product manager for our Mac initiative, I recently upgraded my home hardware from an older iMac to a new, sleek-looking Mac Book. There are so many things to love – faster but perhaps the coolest thing is that the system came with a camera, iChat, iPhoto, iThisAndThat – everything I would need ever need was already there. It saves me from having to find and install third-party applications which may or may not work as nicely as what comes with the system. It is so much better when the platform already comes with a set of essential tools/features.
With that in mind, let’s examine what VMware Infrastructure provides as a platform. (Read Raghu Raghuram’s blog to fully under the power of VMware Infrastructure.) VI provides capabilities such as agent-less backup, failover support with VMware High Availability, automatic load balancing with VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler and ability to move workloads without downtime with VMotion technology. ISVs do not have to spend precious resources building HA, failover and other systems management features, which is good since that is not their core differentiation anyway. From a customer standpoint, by deploying virtual appliances on VMware Infrastructure, they can instantly leverage not only the consolidation benefits but others such as high availability, ability to backup without buying expensive third-party solutions and more generally, efficient management of the datacenter. Over time, there will be even more features available in the platform – virtual infrastructure then becomes the new design center. The combination of virtual appliances and VMware Infrastructure completely changes the way enterprise software can be developed, deployed and managed.
I continue to be amazed at how Apple streamlined its user experience and buying process. For example, the combination of iPods and iTunes has completely revolutionized the way consumers think about buying and listening to music. iTunes offers thousands of songs in a central location and allows users to “evaluate” a song before buying it. Buying a song, uploading onto your iPod and listening to it is so quick and easy that anyone can do it. There is something for enterprise IT vendors to learn from this. Why can’t enterprises buy software as easily as buying a song from iTunes? Why can’t enterprises deploy software as easily as copying a downloaded song from iTunes onto an iPod?
That’s where the Virtual Appliance Marketplace comes into the picture. The VAM is a library of over 330 virtual appliances spanning collaboration, email security, enterprise applications, firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention, operating systems, and traffic management. Simply download to evaluate a software package and if you like it, you can even buy it from the marketplace. One stop-shopping for enterprise software!
With Virtual Appliances as songs, VMware Infrastructure as iPods and the new Virtual Appliance Marketplace as iTunes, the whole model of developing, buying, deploying and managing enterprise software is completely changing. ISVs will build an application stack that includes a light-weight OS and is ready to run, customers will buy it from the virtual appliance marketplace and deploy on virtual infrastructure, which like the Mac already comes with an essential set of capabilities.
Is this the start of enterprise software 2.0?