Today we’re releasing VMware AppCatalyst – a desktop hypervisor for developers – as a technology preview. As we spoke with development teams the last few months, it became clear that there was a gap in the market. Most developers use some form of hypervisor on their desktop – typically either VMware Fusion or Oracle VirtualBox – and they use these tools every day. But these tools were not specifically designed to support developer workflows, and there are many developer use cases where we thought we could do a lot better.

It’s free! One of the most overwhelming pieces of feedback we got from the community was that developers loved Fusion, but often used some other hypervisor because they didn’t want to pay for Fusion when they just needed a local environment in which to code. So we’re making the technology preview of AppCatalyst free.

AppCatalyst leverages the same hypervisor that ships in Fusion, Workstation, and vSphere. We stripped out some features that we found developers didn’t care about as much like GUI, 3D graphics support, virtual USB support, and Windows guest support. But of course, if you want those features, you’re welcome to upgrade to Fusion and get the full experience.

It’s API- and CLI-driven AppCatalyst is driven by REST API and CLI. Everything the hypervisor does is exposed and controlled through the REST API, making it extremely easy to integrate AppCatalyst into other tools and workflows. We leveraged this capability to build AppCatalyst support for Docker Machine and Vagrant in just a few days (see below for more details on these features).

We’re already working with the community to bring integrations of other common tools like Panamax and Kitematic to AppCatalyst, and we expect to expand integration into more tools going forward.

It’s optimized for cloud-native application workloads One of the most common use cases for the desktop hypervisor is with Docker. Docker is fundamentally a Linux technology, but most developers we talk to are using Mac’s so they need some form of hypervisor to run a Docker engine. But to do this you need to a) download a hypervisor, b) select a Linux distribution, c) download and install said Linux distribution, then d) setup Docker. All just to get to the point where you can start using Docker.

AppCatalyst comes pre-bundled with Photon OS – VMware’s compact container host Linux distribution. When you download AppCatalyst, you can point docker-machine at it, start up a Photon instance almost instantly (since there’s no Linux ISO to download), and start using Docker. This saves a lot of time getting started.

Another common use of the desktop hypervisor is with Vagrant. Developers build Vagrant files and then Vagrant up their deployment. AppCatalyst ships with a Vagrant provider so you can start using it with Vagrant immediately.

A data center on your desktop for dev and test Our long term goal is to turn AppCatalyst into a data center on the desktop: any program or utility that you use against your production data center should be able to run in dev/test mode on your laptop. To do this we’ll be adding storage and networking abstractions to AppCatalyst, and moving towards API parity with the data center. We have a ways to go to get there, and this initial tech preview is just the first step.

In the meantime, please check out the free tech preview of AppCatalyst and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you @cloudnativeapps, especially if you’re trying to integrate your tools with AppCatalyst, or if you’ve got cool ideas about what you think it should do next.

More information:

About the Author: Jared Rosoff is the senior director of product management for Cloud-Native Apps at VMware, where he oversees the company’s cloud-native portfolio of products.