When it ships in the next few weeks vSphere will be able to install multi-tier applications those designed to run on multiple servers that have been packaged together into one virtual appliance or image file. Under VMware branding, those files are called vApps. They meet the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) industry standard for virtual appliances, which defines how a virtual machines resources and other requirements should be described.
According to VMware, vApp will allow customers to choose between cloud providers of raw computing services, and by implication will therefore eliminate the threat of cloud lock-in. Throw any provider a multi-tier application packaged as a vApp and it will be able to install that application easily.
In reality that happy situation is some way off, because VMware created vApp using OVF version 1.0, which is still basic. VMware did not have any choice, because that is the only version of OVF that has been ratified. However, it does not cover issues that will be very important to cloud service providers, such as OS licensing, or a means of signing or authenticating application code for security purposes.
Developing OVF to address those concerns will take some while yet. When prompted, VMware itself admits that it has simply taken a step down a lengthy path towards cloud portability.
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