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VMware shop tames virtual sprawl with FastScale

FastScale Technology announced FastScale Virtual Manager, a complement to its FastScale Composer Suite.

At a leading independent software vendor (ISV), the IT department now uses software virtualization and provisioning from FastScale Technology Inc. to minimize the size of the virtual machines (VMs) used in its engineering department.

For more on sprawl and application virtualization:
Virtual machine sprawl prevention: Best practices

Virtual appliances: The risks and the benefits

VI3's resource pools a hit, VM sprawl a misconception

Engineering departments are particularly prone to virtual sprawl, said the IT manager, who requested anonymity. And this shop runs hundreds of VMware Inc.'s ESX Server, and hundreds more -- possibly thousands -- of VMs. "If you're not carefully managing this, you end up with this bloat of VMs, with a full OS image and a lot of junk sitting around."

Blueprinting cuts back on sprawl
FastScale's technique of "blueprinting" a server application typically reduces the size of the operating system and application image by several orders of magnitude. "Your average Red Hat distribution is 4GB," the IT manager said. After blueprinting, the typical application image -- in FastScale-speak, a Dynamic Application Bundle, or DAB -- is between 30 MB and 40 MB, he said. "That's a huge savings in terms of disk, to say nothing of everything else."

If you're not carefully managing this, you end up with this bloat of VMs.
An IT manager at an independent software vendor,

FastScale's flagship suite, FastScale Composer, reduces an application stack by identifying which components are required and which are not for an application to run, explained FastScale CEO Lynn LeBlanc. While Composer won't touch the Linux kernel-, user- and system-level libraries and device drivers are all fair game. A DAB of an Apache Web server, for example, contains approximately 500 files; compare that with 300,000 for a typical Red Hat Linux distribution.

The blueprinting process is relatively easy and fast, the IT manager said. "It's pretty quick -- under a minute," he said. As a result, he has considered blueprinting all the lightly used VMs in the lab. "Why have all this stuff lying around that you're never going to use?" he said. "It's probably a liability from a security standpoint."

Once the application is blueprinted, FastScale can provision the image to a VMware VM or to a bare-metal server, where it will run in memory. Users can also store a "recipe" for recreating the application's DAB to easily reprovision the application down the road.

Then, this week, FastScale announced the FastScale Virtual Manager, a complement to FastScale Composer that automatically generates a .VMDK file from the DAB for better portability. This new functionality also "pares down the resources requirements associated with a VMware virtual machine," LeBlanc said.

Reducing the size of VMs improves VMware's consolidation proposition. According to FastScale, an ESX host can run three times as many virtual machines that have been blueprinted by FastScale than VMs that have not.

FastScale Virtual Manager supports all versions of VMware software: VMware Workstation, VMware Server, and ESX Server. FastScale Composer is currently available for Red Hat Linux only, but Windows support is forthcoming.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director.

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