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VMware Virtual Appliance – Different Aspects Worth Knowing

A virtual appliance (VA) can be defined as a pre-configured virtual machine (VM) image file possessing a pre-configured operating system (OS) environment and having a single application.

VMware Virtual Appliance

The main purpose of a virtual appliance is to ease delivery and simplify operation of an application. To this end, only necessary operating system components are included.

A virtual appliance (VA) is a preconfigured virtual machine (VM) image file, ready to run on a hypervisor. Virtual appliances are a subset of the broader class of software appliances.

Installation of a software appliance on a virtual machine and packaging that into an image creates a virtual appliance.

Like software appliances, virtual appliances are envisioned to eliminate the installation, configuration and maintenance costs associated with complex stacks of software.

Using a VMware virtual appliance can eliminate a lot of manual fiddling, but VMware needs to improve a few areas to encourage their use among administrators.

A VMware virtual appliance eliminates all of that by offering a virtual machine that is preconfigured with an operating system and the required application and its dependencies.

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Download the VM, put it on your host and power on. Only a few items need to be configured, such as an IP address, a password and of course, the settings of the application itself.

A virtual appliance can be implemented as a VM or a subset of a virtual machine executing on the technology of virtualization, like, VMware Workstation.

Implementing an application as a virtual appliance can waive off problems, tend to occur during installation and configuration, for instance, issues related to software or driver compatibility.

Users can easily download a single file and run the application. Resources needed for maintenance are also reduced. Virtual appliances are very useful concept in deploying network applications.

They are very helpful in technology like grid computing, where problems can be resolved by using heterogeneous hardware and operating systems.

In the cloud concept of Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model, the ease of the virtual appliance is very helpful in improving economies of scale.

Generally, there are mainly two kinds of virtual appliances, namely, closed and open.

A closed VA is mostly packaged, maintained, distributed, updated and generally managed as a unit.

An open VA is generally accessible to customers for modifications. Developers can incorporate a Web interface for custom configurations or can in delivering patches and performing updates.

Is VMware virtual appliance good?

The use of virtual appliances has picked up since 2006. More and more applications have been made available as virtual appliances.

Some applications by VMware are available only as appliances, such as Horizon Workspace. Why is that better? This is because it simplifies the setup of complex systems.

It saves administrators time by ensuring, they don’t have to worry about the enormous list of dependencies and configuration items that are sometimes required for applications.

Looking at Horizon Workspace, if it was a regular Windows-based installation, setup list would contain multiple Windows servers, database server, Web servers, and identity providers and file sharing each with its own specific configuration and dependencies.

Compare this to the bundle of five appliances that are deployed in one process in under an hour, and the benefits are clear.

What about the problems that you run into during installation? What about dependencies that conflict or steps that are not documented fully or not properly interpreted?

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The Internet is full of forum posts by administrators asking for help when they’re setting up applications on servers.

An appliance removes those problems because everything has been prepared by the vendor.

Does it mean that there are no drawbacks? No. There are always things to worry about, and there is also room for improvement.

Firstly more consistency is required. All the virtual appliances VMware offers come with default user names such as root or admin, and with a range of default passwords like VMware, default or changeme.

In a few of the newer appliances, this has changed, and you will need to provide a password in the OVF deployment wizard.

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