One of the attractions of virtualization is the ability to deploy applications as pre-built virtual appliances. An article in CIO Magazine describes a virtual appliance as “an application is designed, certified and delivered, with its own little OS, to run as a virtual machine on your existing physical server, or to run in a VM via a “cloud computing” service like Amazon’s.” Virtual Appliances are expected to provide rapid deployment, simplified support, improved performance (OS and Application Tuned by ISV), and increased security. There are many advantages to virtual appliances. But is this deployment method the best solution to your deployment issues?

With all the buzz about virtualization and cloud computing, the interest level from both IT departments and vendors in virtual appliances is rising rapidly. Citrix has offered an Evaluation Virtual Appliance of XenApp for over a year. It has been downloaded over 11,000 times, according to Kurt Moody. Microsoft nows has virtual appliances for Windows Server 2008, System Center Configuration Manager, SharePoint Server 2007, Exchange Server 2007, and more.  Many virtualization vendors like Marathon Technologies, Platform Computing, Fortisphere, VMLogix, deliver their product as a virtual appliance.

Some application vendors have also jumped on the virtual appliance bandwagon, such as Business Objects and Satori. Several virtual appliance sites have been launched, included rPath, and in addition the the existing VMWare Virtual Appliance Marketplace. Even Paralells has started offering virtual appliances from their website.

There are some concerns about this new model. As this article points out, there are questions about licensing of the OS and application (especially for Windows based applications) as well as export and security issues.

With all these new virtual appliances becoming available, I am curious to know if you use virtual appliances, and, if so, for what purposes? What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of virtual appliances?

Please vote in the polls below. Once you have voted, please post in the comments if there is anything else you would liek to see from virtual appliances.-