The Virtualization Room

May 20 2008   9:26AM GMT

Using virtual appliances with VMware

Eric Siebert Eric Siebert Profile: Eric Siebert

VMware’s Virtual Appliance Marketplace has over 800 appliances available for download over a wide range of categories that can be used in your VMware environment. For those who may not be familiar, virtual appliances are pre-built, pre-configured virtual machines for use in virtual environments that are built to serve specific functions.

Some of the type of appliances available with VMware include anti-spam, database/app/web servers, firewalls, network monitoring, operating systems and administration tools. There is even an appliance for running DOS-based games from the early 90s. Most of the appliances are free to download and use except for some of the certified appliances from vendors such as IBM, Symantec, VMSight, Bluelane and Bea which must be purchased. Almost all of the appliances run various distributions of Linux to avoid operating system licensing costs and many utilize free open-source applications.

These appliances are compatible with any of VMware’s products including Player, Workstation, Server, Fusion and ESX. Appliances range in size from a few megabytes for some of the small router or firewall appliances to a few gigabytes for some of the bigger, more featured applications. A typical appliance download will usually include the virtual disk (vmdk) file(s), configuration (vmx or ovf) file and usually a few companion files. Once you locate an appliance that you want to use, simply download it and copy the files to your VMware server or workstation. After adding the VM via your management interface, you’re ready to power it on and start using it. Most appliances are pre-configured to use DHCP to automatically assign an IP address to the VM but they will usually allow you to manually configure a static IP address if needed. A new feature in VirtualCenter 2.5 allows you to automatically download and import ovf file-format appliances via a simple wizard interface. You can also use VMware Converter to import virtual appliances into ESX.

Below are a couple of notable appliances that you might want to check out:

ESX Deployment Appliance – (free) Makes deploying new ESX servers simple and fast

X-M0n0wall – (free) A great little firewall for protecting virtual networks

Network Security Toolkit – (free) Contains many open-source network security applications

NagiosVMA – (free) All-in-one open-source host and network monitoring system

LAMP Appliance – (free) A complete web environment including web server (Apache), database (MySQL) and scripting language (PHP)

Remote CLI – (free) Remote command line utility for managing ESXi servers

Browser Appliance – (free) Safely browse the internet inside a virtual machine to prevent malware from infecting your desktop.

LeftHand Virtual SAN Appliance – ($) Converts internal storage of VI3 servers into a iSCSI SAN

SpamTitan – ($) A full-featured email security appliance

VM Sight – ($) Provides virtual network reporting and analytics

VMware Infrastructure Perl Toolkit 1.5 – (free) Provides a Perl interface to manage and control a VI3 environment

vKernel – ($) ESX resource monitoring and reporting including chargeback reports

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