Sunday, June 25, 2006

Virtualize ASAP, Then What?

This week, VMware and Intel announced a program called Virtualize ASAP to help ISVs turn their applications into virtual appliances. The value of virtual appliances is obvious for customers - no installation or configuration hassles. But how can that value be sustained? After all, a virtual appliance, although contained inside a virtual container, still has lots of components (such as an operating system, application server, web server, database, etc) that will invariably suffer from bugs and obsolesence in the face of technological progress. If the customer is supposed to manage lifecycle issues such as operating system support and maintenance associated with the components of the virtual appliance, is the convenience of a simplified installation really much of a bargain?

Virtual appliances will truly become an interesting form factor when application companies shoulder the burden of lifecycle management for all of the components that make the virtual appliance a complete solution. If a virtual appliance only provides the value of a snapshot in time for the system components, it is only really valid for demonstrations and trials. Fortunately, Linux and open source offer application ISVs a perfect OEM license that enables absolute control of the customer experience throughout the application lifecycle.

With Linux and open source, an application company can tailor the components to suit the performance characteristics of its application. Then, as the components evolve, they can be passed along to the customer -- if and when the changes add value for the customer in the context of the application. Because the application company tests and certifies all components before a customer receives them, the customer headaches and hassles of coordinating and testing asychronous maintenance streams disappear.

If ISVs are going to Virtualize ASAP, we can only hope that Intel and VMware are going to provide them with some guidance on how to harness Linux and open source to offer a complete value proposition for the customer.


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