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Virtualization Standard Released

The Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) has released the first finished version of the Open Virtualization Format (OVF), a set of metadata tags that can be used to deploy a virtual environment across multiple virtualization platforms.

DMTF President Winston Bumpus announced the version 1.0 release of OVF at the Cloud Interoperability Workshop, a track of the Object Management Group technical meeting, being held this week in Washington.

Initiated last fall, OVF sprang from the DMTF's Virtualization Management (VMAN) working group, which investigates ways to manage the use of virtualization applications and the platforms they can spawn.

With OVF, users can download a virtualized instance of some application, along with the supporting operating system, and run it "in the hypervisor of their choice," Bumpus said. A software vendor could place a demo of an application in a virtual machine, package it with OVF and allow users to test it within their own virtual infrastructure, instead of using the platform that the virtual machine was originally created for.

OVF could enable what Bumpus called virtual appliances. In IT parlance, appliances are computers dedicated to running a single application, an approach that minimizes the headaches of running the application within the organization's own operating system of choice. In a similar way, a virtualized appliance is one that can be set up on any virtualization platform, such as VMware or Xen.

With this first version, the VMAN group concentrated on developing a set of descriptive tags that could instruct the virtual platform on how to start and stop a virtual machine. Despite its name, OVF is not a format per se. Rather it is a set of metadata that describes the characteristics of the virtualization container being used.

Using OVF, the virtual platform can translate the virtual machine into its own environment. Since many virtual platforms can already translate virtual machines created by other competing virtual platforms, the group decided the first task would be to develop the metadata standard to describe the virtual machine, rather than develop an entirely new virtual machine format. Both VMware and the Citrix, which offers a commercial version of Xen, supports OVF.

OVF can also be used to manage a number of virtual machines as a single group. For instance, if a series of virtual machines need to be started in a particular sequence, OVF can be used to designate the order in which virtual machine is fired up. Bumpus said that additional management capabilities will be added to subsequent versions of the standard.

In addition to the standard, the DMTF VMAN site also offers a white paper and a demonstration to further explain how OVF works.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the chief technology editor of Government Computing News (GCN.com).

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