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Virtual Machine Use May Tilt OS Dynamic

The rise of virtual machines may prove to be somewhat of a nightmare for entrenched purveyors of closed operating systems, but it may become a boon for independent software vendors (ISVs) and end users -- so a recent Yankee Group report suggests.

Integration, which is costly for ISVs, especially as they develop their applications for multiple and more complex OSes, becomes less of a problem with virtual machines, which combine applications with thinned-out OSes. ISVs use only the part of the OS they need for their application, and can handle all of the configuration issues within the virtual machine. This approach eliminates integration issues for the end user.

In order for a virtual machine to run, users need to have a virtual server in place, explained Gary Chen, enterprise research, SME IT infrastructure and applications senior analyst at the Yankee Group. He is author of the new Yankee Group report, "Virtually Possible: Virtual Appliances Ready to Shake Up Application Delivery."

Enterprises may use virtual servers from Xen, VMware and even Microsoft's new Hyper-V. All of them support a standard called OVF (Open Virtual Machine Format), Chen said.

In a world of virtual machine-delivered software, open source OSes, such as Linux, may gain greater use, because of the integration advantages for ISVs.

"In an appliance model, an operating system certainly has a different role -- it's not user managed," Chen explained. "So open source certainly has some advantages there. It's not really that an open source operating system is better than closed source -- it's about the business model and what ISVs can do. Basically, ISVs are taking control of the operating system. Before, it was under the users' control. Now it all comes together, and most of the time, ISVs don't want you to mess around with what's under there."

With virtual machines, licensing is less of an issue, and it's easier to distribute the application, Chen said. ISVs can also make the OS more application specific.

"One of the big keys of having a virtual client is this concept of VMware called "JeOS" [pronounced "juice"]," Chen said. "Basically, you want to get the operating system to be application specific, and as small as possible to do the job."

The report suggests that virtual machines can lead to lower support costs, better quality software, improved scalability and quicker deployments. Potential bottlenecks to virtual machine adoption include resistance from established OS providers, as well as IT integrators. Finally, internal IT departments that center on OS configuration may not wish to change.

The report, "Virtually Possible: Virtual Appliances Ready to Shake Up Application Delivery," is available via the Yankee Group's Web site.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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