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Virtualization standards becoming a reality

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The next step in data security

As the virtualization market continues to expand, concerns over incompatibility between virtual machines from VMware, XenSource and Microsoft are unsurprisingly growing with it.

That's why several key players in the industry are collaborating to help stamp out yet another proprietary hydra, before it reaches an apex of hopelessly incongruous formats seen throughout the tech industry.

Under the banner of the Distributed Management Task Force, new specifications created by Dell, HP, IBM, Microsoft, VMware and XenSource hope to become an industry standard.

With the opening of VMworld in San Francisco, the group announced the acceptance of a draft specification the DMTF will develop and promote worldwide.

The proposed Open Virtual Machine Format (OVF) doesn't aim to replace the three existing formats, but instead ties them together in a standards-based XML package that contains all the necessary installation and configuration parameters. This, in theory, will allow any virtualization platform (that implements the standard) to run the virtual machines.

"With the increasing demand for virtualization in enterprise management, the new spec developed through this industry-wide collaboration dovetails nicely into existing virtualization management standardization activity within the DMTF," said Winston Bumpus, DMTF president, in a statement.

OVF will set some safeguards as well. The format will permit integrity checking of the VMs to ensure they have not been tampered with since the package was produced. DMTF said this will alleviate security concerns of users who adopt virtual appliances produced by third parties. OVF will also support licence checking for the enclosed VMs.

The organization hasn't provided a timeline for adopting the format — and more importantly, neither has VMware, XenSource and Microsoft. Each has expressed their support for the format, however.

Hopefully the crew can get their act together sooner rather than later and make migration from one brand of virtual machine to the other a little bit easier. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

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