Virtual machines used to be all about managing your data center or server consolidation or running applications that only run on some other operating system. Lately, virtual machines have been gaining momentum in a new area: software distribution.
This is actually quite powerful. Instead of a giving a user a complex set of instructions for installing some application or web service, and telling them what they need to install beforehand and what distros or operating systems it works on, the distributor or project can instead provide a bare-bones virtual machine containing the application or service pre-configured, and users can simply download it and power it on. It’s a great way of previewing applications or even running them day-to-day (depending on the application).
There’s a wonderful service out there called Gallery. It’s a web-based photo gallery that users can install on their server in order to share photos with the world. There’s a number of modules available. Many programs work with it. You can do things like order prints through the web. Great program.
And it’s now available in a virtual appliance! They have a description and instructions for setting it up, and I’ve been informed that they plan to keep it updated with each new release. It contains both Gallery 1 and Gallery 2, giving users a chance to see the differences between the versions and decide which suits them best. It can be used in VMware Player, Server, Workstation, and probably ESX (I haven’t tried). It’s downloadable from their website or from VMTN. You can see h0bbel’s blog post for more information on the appliance.
I think this is awesome and I hope it works out well for them and for the users. I’d love to see more projects go this route, and with any luck, Gallery will have set a precedent in the web services world. And for the developers creating these appliances, please feel free to let us know what VMware could do to make your lives easier. We welcome feedback, and you can send it directly to me.