VMWare Virtual Appliances



Server graphic from openclipart.org by Oliver BoyerA few weeks ago I downloaded the free version of VMWare Server to try out a few operating systems on my testbed Ubuntu box. Installation went quite well (even though it felt like I was building something from CPAN) and it even handled building some modules for the Linux kernel I had installed quite gracefully.

What I stumbled upon and have been thinking about off and on for the last few weeks is the selection of virtual appliances available for download. There are two pretty big things that you can do with this wide assortment of preconfigured images.

First, these virtual appliances are killer for evaluating applications, servers, and software stacks. If you’re evaluating mail platforms you can download the Open-Xchange appliance and run it with VMWare Player, testing it in a lab or with your existing infrastructure. If you’ve used SQL Server for years but want to see what else is out there you can experiment with PostgreSQL or MySQL appliances within a virtual sandbox.

The other killer feature of virtual appliances is that you can cram the functionality of several little pastic boxes in one relatively inexpensive box running Linux and VMWare Server. Load up a box with a couple of network cards and run a firewall, network attached storage, CRM software, and a PBX on it. This is the aspect of virtual appliances that VMWare is marketing well but I still think it’s a huge deal.

Many of these appliances take up very little disk space and othe resources which means you can pack them in pretty tight. You can replace several different servers or appliances with one physical box and operate multiple appliances for virtually zero additional cost. It’s also nice that there are a ton of virtual appliances from companies and hobbyists alike.

To be honest I’m not quite sure how VMWare isn’t loosing their shirt on this. Free appliances running with free (as in beer) software doesn’t bring in any money. They are however showing lots of people exactly how good their software is. Hopefully someone who loves VMWare server and player would be more likely to purchase a datacenter-quality product from VMWare over another vendor.


19 responses to “VMWare Virtual Appliances”

  1. Chris Meisenzahl Avatar

    Great post Matt. I’ve been tinkering w/ VMware Player recently too and love it. I think there’s a huge market for the ESX product and they’re making money that way.

  2. Chris Avatar

    Thanks for an excellent post. We are using VMWare products for new appliance development for SMB networks as portable solution. These VMWare products really have helped us in product testing environment as there is no more long installation setup process involved.
    For more info on Intelica Networks virtal appliance:

  3. Kelvin Avatar

    Have you guys tried this out? With this, you can stream the VM to the desktop and you can also carry the virtual appliances on a USB memory stick. Now you can run that on any computer without installing anything.

  4. Kelvin Avatar

    The URL is: http://www.moka5.com and the list of LivePCs are at: http://www.moka5.com/livepc

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  6. Ronan Avatar

    Hi, We offer a white paper on this, “Virtual v’s Physical Appliances, 4 compelling reasons for change” see our website http://www.spamtitan.com
    We also offer a production VA which is selling very well, about 50% uptake is of our virtual appliance rather than our ISO offering, so there is an appetite for them. There is also a healthy mix of VM products being used, player, mainly server but also ESX



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  11. Finding a Supplier Avatar

    Your right there are way to many different applications you can choose from. The best thing to do is jsut to pick from the ones with great reivews.

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