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Virtualization Vendors Vying to Provide Software Development and Test Solutions

VMware is taking its virtualization technology further into the software development lifecycle with a new product designed to enable development and test teams to pool resources and to allocate them on an as-needed basis. Bangalore-based competitor VMLogix is expected to launch a similar tool this month. Surprisingly, both products have virtually the same name.

Unveiled today, VMware Lab Manager automates the setup, capture, storage, and sharing of multi-machine software configurations, and then provides development and test teams with access to specific configurations through a self-service interface.

"The disparate resources spread all over the place today among development and test teams can be consolidated into one or more shared lab environments," explains James Phillips, VMware's senior director of virtual software lifecycle automation solutions. "The IT organization no longer has to get involved in this sort of manual provisioning. Lab Manager allows [the development and test teams] to log in and check out complex, multi-tier configurations on their own, instead of waiting for IT to set them up."

Billed as "the only comprehensive framework for virtual software lifecycle automation," the new product covers the first three phases of the software development lifecycle--development, test, integration. Another VMware product, Virtual Center, covers the staging, deployment, and management phases.

One of Lab Manager's most compelling features is its ability to allow geographically disbursed development and test teams to share configurations that include defect states, which, Phillips says, "closes the loop" between development and test in terms of defect reporting, trouble-shooting, and resolution.

"Even when you have a well-written bug report, environmental differences will prevent the reproduction of that defect during development and testing, and it'll rear its ugly head later in production when it takes down a system," he says. "VMware Lab Manager takes snapshots of complex multi-machine configurations, captures them to a shared library, and then assigns them a LiveLink URL that QA engineers can flag and enter into a bug report. A team in Bangalore can snapshot a defect state, share it with a development team in New Jersey, and virtually drag them into the test lab to show them the problem, without holding up testing."

Phillips is the former CEO of Akimbi Systems, which the VMware acquired last summer. VMware Lab Manager is based on Akimbi's Virtual Lab Automation System.

Interestingly, another company is set to launch a similar product with nearly the same name. VMLogix is a software lifecycle virtualization provider based in Bangalore, India. The company's forthcoming LabManager product is designed to allow IT operations and development and QA teams to build, share, deploy, and optimize the management of complex, multi-machine development and test-system configurations and QA/Test labs.

Founded in 2004, VMLogix is one of the only direct competitors to VMware in this virtualization niche. According to the company, LabManager has been beta tested at 11 large "enterprise-grade accounts," including "some of the world’s largest and most successful software and [IT-enabled services] companies." The company plans to launch the product in North America sometime this month.

Both of these products leverage some of properties of virtualization technology--encapsulation, mobility, and insulation--to solve some of the more intractable IT lifecycle process problems. Former Gartner research director Theresa Lanowitz, who now operates Voke, an analyst firm specializing in the application lifecycle management market, has called virtual lab automation a "breakthrough concept" that "presents an opportunity to achieve high-impact gains in software development lifecycle processes, and cost reduction, and enterprise application development organizations should be anxious to use it to their benefit."

VMware Lab Manager went into a private beta in the third quarter of this year with more than 650 participants, the company says. The public beta version is now available for download.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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