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Virtual Application Servers (vApps) - A Blessing or a Curse?

One of the easiest ways for a vendor to provide an application to you or your organization is through a virtual application offering: think VMware Appliances or even Turnkey solutions. Often the virtual application will sit on top of a “free to distribute” flavor of Linux or Unix (Debian, CentOS, and Fedora are pretty popular). This gives the vendor complete control over how the application has been laid down over the operating system. The application is then managed by a way that has been blessed by the vendor such as a front end web GUI or thick client.

As a consultant, I see a wide variety of environments and teams in action. The use of a virtual application is not always received with the greatest enthusiasm. For example: you have a server team that is strong with Windows and need to deploy a Linux vApp. The idea of a new operating system in the mix can be met with sour faces.

emoticons_plus.png How does your server team, be that yourself or others, react to the idea of virtual application servers?

emoticons_plus.png Do you often find them a blessing or a curse to your daily operations?

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  • Virtual apps or "virtual appliances" as they are sometimes called are met with open arms here.  Virtual appliances are generally easy and fast to deploy and usually painless to manage/maintain.

    I am a big fan of virtual appliances.  Definitely a blessing.

  • I love virtual appliances.  If we're concerned with best practices, who else could set up the software better than the manufacturer?  I see a future where Exchange, Windows, SQL, Sharepoint, almost everything comes as a downloadable appliance. 

  • We usually don't have an issue with VAs in general.  The only problems are that of security and maintenance.  Some companies that provide VAs are better than others when it comes to how the put them together and support them.  Having a ton of unknown OSes in your environment to me seems like you are asking for trouble.  But for specialized roles and functions VAs are hard to beat.

  • The issue we run into here with Turn Key solutions,is to be honest manufacturers, software developers are not always security conscious.  The Turn Key solution brings concern to our server and security teams in security, support and maintenance.  Also, even though we typically buy support with all of our products, this format seems to give unnecessary leverage to the vendor.

  • Having a ton of unknown OSes in your environment to me seems like you are asking for trouble.

    Good point on security. Some appliances are put together to only solve the application requirement and have no concern over recommended practices around security. Or, they don't adhere to your specific security requirements. Examples include isolated service accounts, firewall / iptables usage, and separation of web / app / database into unique network segments or systems.

    Do you have to get clearance to deploy a vApp from your internal security team?

  • Also, even though we typically buy support with all of our products, this format seems to give unnecessary leverage to the vendor.

    First, I agree with your points on security that you stated, and commented further in 's post on that. I wanted to hit your support comment specifically.

    Has anyone hit a wall with being "held hostage" by support via virtual appliances? I take this to mean that because you have no control over the underlying system, as you would with say Microsoft Exchange, that you are forced into buying support at a higher tier? Perhaps you might normally only want 8 x 5 next business day but feel that you must have 24 x 7 with 4 hour resolution?

  • I personally love VA's.  The simplified deployment and management lets me focus on just using the application versus needing to worry about supporting the underlying OS and other moving parts.  I also love that I don't have yet another set of licenses that need to be tracked and managed such as Windows, SQL, etc.

  • I see this same future and hope that it becomes a reality.

  • I think there are pros and cons to VAs.  Pros  - Easy to install, replace and remove; makes it easy to create Lab environments.  Cons  - security and maintenance. Most of the providers we work with have pretty good maintenance policies and are generally quick to respond.  Our security team reviews and test these devices prior to production implementation. Two thumbs up for me...

  • I would agree that they are a blessing.  The speed and ease of deploying a Virtual Appliance can't be beat.  Financially, it also saves on a Windows License.  The only slight downside I see is with VMware and it's tools.  Many of the appliances fall behind in the VMware Tools versions and that drives me crazy when I see 'Out of Date' in the vCenter Console. emoticons_happy.png