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VMware takes another stab at virtual appliance authoring

VMware Studio 2.0 free virtual appliance authoring software can create multi-tier virtual appliances, but some IT pros have already settled on Sun xVM VirtualBox.

The VMware Studio 2.0 beta is now available This is the first major update of the free virtual appliance authoring software since version 1.0 was announced in September 2008.

While VMware's grasp of the server virtualization market remains tight, it doesn't have nearly so tight a lock on the client-side virtualization software that its customers use to test, configure and package virtual machines (VMs).

For more on VMware Studio and Sun VirtualBox:
VirtualBox lures VMware users with OVF support

VMware unveils cloud computing vision with new Virtual Datacenter OS

The thrust of the VMware Studio 2.0 release is to extend its reach beyond independent software vendors that build pre-packaged virtual appliances and toward a wider audience of developers and VMware administrators. To that end, Studio 2.0 adds, among other things, support for vApp, VMware parlance for multi-tier virtual appliances based on the Distributed Management Task Force Inc.'s Open Virtualization Format (OVF) standard. It also includes an Eclipse plug-in and support for building Windows virtual machines as well as the ability to import existing virtual machines; VMware Studio 2.0 is itself delivered as a virtual appliance running Ubuntu Linux.

Meanwhile, quite a few VMware users have already found their way to Sun Microsystems Inc.'s open source xVM VirtualBox, version 3.0 of which is in beta. In addition to being free, VirtualBox users say its performance is faster than with other tools, including those from VMware.

Opting for Sun VirtualBox
Stephen Foskett, the director of consulting for cloud storage start-up Nirvanix Inc., uses VirtualBox on a home Apple Mac to test various Windows applications. His first choice was VMware's ESX hypervisor, but "it's so picky about which hardware it will run on, so that was out." Meanwhile, VMware Fusion, which Foskett also owns, "feels like it's only designed to run one or two VMs at a time." Even though he paid for Fusion out of his own pocket, "these days, I almost exclusively use VirtualBox."

I almost exclusively use VirtualBox.
Stephen Foskett,
director of consultingNirvanix Inc.

A favorite among gamers and open source fans, the new VirtualBox 3.0 also includes features designed to appeal to enterprise IT developers. With the new version, developers can create virtual machines with up to 32 virtual CPUs, an increase from just one. Combine that with the capability introduced in version 2.2 to import and export virtual machines to the OVF format, and IT admins can now pre-configure highly threaded, multi-tier virtual appliances that can run on virtually any server hypervisor.

There are some caveats to VirtualBox's virtual CPU feature. Support for vCPUs requires the virtualization extensions from Intel Corp. and AMD Inc., said Andy Hall, VirtualBox's product manager. Similarly, the number of virtual CPUs a VM can have is limited to twice the number physical CPUs in the system. "If you overcommit too far, you can get into a bit of a pickle," Hall said.

A bigger issue for VirtualBox users may be its future under Oracle Corp., which is acquiring VirtualBox along with the rest of Sun Microsystems, said Nirvanix's Foskett. Even though VirtualBox is mostly open source, the more widely used version does include some useful features that are not licensed as such: support for the remote display protocol (RDP), USB devices, iSCSI and Gigabit Ethernet.

"I hope Oracle is a good shepherd for it and allows it to continue [as is]," Foskett said. "The free-as-in-speech version is missing a bunch of things that make it really useful."

Hall said that since it went into beta earlier this month, VirtualBox 3.0 had been downloaded more than 25,000 times. For more information on VMware Studio 2.check out the VMware website here.

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

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