VMWare Eyes Virtual Appliances to Combat Software Bloating

With today's operating systems ever increasing in size and complexity, a result of the wide variety of applications and usage situations they must support, maintenance of the codebase against bugs and security vulnerabilities becomes ever harder. Fortunately, VMWare thinks it has a solution; VMWare co-founder and chief scientist Mendel Rosenblum said in a keynote at Linuxworld in San Francisco that corporations should eye virtual appliances as a way to create a highly customized platform to run their applications. Instead of customizing applications to suit the target OS, Rosenblum advised, developers should consider creating a custom operating system. ""Rather than making your application run on a bunch of different operating systems, you choose one operating system. You bundle it together and you ship this thing around as a virtual appliance." And an application specific operating system doesn't just cut back on the potential number of bugs and security flaws: developers can also add features that for instance increase the software's performance.

VMWare believes Linux is the ideal candidate to run these virtual appliances because the operating system is free and open source. Indeed, several companies are currently selling virtual appliances on specialized Linux distributions, such as database vendor Ingress. Middleware maker BEA in June also started shipping its WebLogic Server Virtual Edition, a virtual version of its Java application server that allows users to quickly add compute power to Java applications that are part of a Service Oriented Architecture. However, he jury on virtual appliances is still out, because each customized Linux version is essentially a fork, meaning seperate patches and hardware certifications for each separate customized version.

"We won't compromise the reason that people go to open source and Linux in the first place, which is to have a platform that is well tested and developed by the community," said Scott Crenshaw, Red Hat's Red Hat's vice president for Enterprise Linux said in May. "There are Lines that have to be drawn to optimize the security and quality. You can expect a great degree of customization to be available but not the creation of a Linux fork."

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