VMware yesterday unveiled a series of solutions yesterday--its Virtual Datacenter OS and related products--that I personally believe are a gigantic advance not just for IT administrators, but for software developers and testers too. And that's just the beginning. The company also introduced a new way of packaging applications with the potential to allow them to execute on any platform or as a stand-alone appliance.

Please note that VMware itself isn't saying this. But the company's new vApp and vStudio sound similar (functionally, not technologically) to Sun's promise of a "run anywhere" Java more than ten years ago. vApp employs technology developed under the OpenVZ container solution based on Linux. As explained by VMware, the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) provides "a standard way to package and distribute virtual machines" that is "independent, efficient, extensible, and open."

OVF simplifies setup of pre-configured, multi-tiered services, VMware says, and allows delivery of enterprise apps with single or multiple encapsulated, portable virtual machine(s). Developers gain portability, platform independence, verification, signing, versioning, and improved licensing terms, the company says. The way I see it, a standardized tool that streamlines installation is something Linux could certainly use. OVF also is extensible, and provides platform-specific enhancements and localization. Applications packaged in this way can be deployed to any hypervisor that supports OVF.

Along with vApp is VMware Studio, which the company describes as "an authoring and configuration tool that enables ISVs and enterprises to construct Virtual Appliances and vApps." In essence, the tool combines your application with an underlying virtualized operating system. "Instead of managing operating systems and applications separately, now a vApp can be deployed and managed as a single entity," the company says.

VMware also introduced vStorage Thin Provisioning and vStorage Linked Clones, which it says can reduce physical storage requirements by as much as 50 percent. Also new is vNetwork Distributed Switch, which simplifies setup and changes to virtual networking and preserves network and security policies during migration.

There's more to tell, but most of that is not set to arrive until 2009. So I'll save that for another time.