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A Developer's Eye View of Virtual Machines

Virtualization technology allows developers to create multiple virtual testing and development environments on a single physical machine. The cost-saving implications are just the beginning of the story.

n a world of multiple operating systems, each with various versions, no developer has the luxury of building applications for only one target configuration. Every developer needs to ensure that his or her applications will function correctly on all the OS configurations used by today's heterogeneous IT environments. Because dedicating physical test systems for each target environment is out of most development teams' budgets, virtual machines (VMs) are the right solution at the right time.

Virtualization solutions enable you to run multiple VMs on one physical computer. Each VM behaves as an isolated physical PC or server with its own configuration—a very useful testing and development environment that's much cheaper than the real thing. Java developers know the benefits of the VM concept well. The promise of enabling developers to "write once, run anywhere" was a key factor in the broad adoption of Java, which itself runs on the Java Virtual Machine.

Recognizing the impact VMs can have on the application development process, DevX has compiled a comprehensive special report titled Virtual Machines Usher In a New Era. Our report helps you understand and evaluate the available virtualization solutions and guides you through deployment.

In her article, "The Right and Wrong Virtual Machine Uses in Development and Testing," Megan Davis, a member of the Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 product development team, explains why VMs—despite the time and money they save—are not the right choice for every software development and testing scenario. Find out when they make sense and when physical machines are a better choice.

If you're planning to deploy VMs in the datacenter, you'll need to weigh the benefits and drawbacks there as well. Drawing on his experience using VMware and Xen to test software, consolidate servers, and host services, Java developer and author Wellie Chao gives you "The Pros and Cons of Virtual Machines in the Datacenter."

After you decide to proceed with deployment, Web and Windows programming consultant Martin Heller walks you through a step-by-step Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 installation of SuSE Linux 9.1 Professional from DVD in his article "The Developer's Guide to Building Virtual PCs." Software architect Edmon Begoli takes VM deployment one step further in "Prototype Complex Enterprise Solutions with Just Your Workstation," with guided instructions for using VMs to prototype a database backend solution for an Internet application—on your desktop.

John Paul Cook, a database and systems architect, addresses the roles VMs can—and can't—play in your security strategy with a tutorial on using a VM for safe Internet browsing ("Make A Virtual Machine Your Safe Internet-Browsing Sandbox"). In it, he also pokes holes in the notion that a VM is a safe environment for analyzing malware behavior or hosting honeypots.

Armed with the knowledge from this report, you may feel ready to base your entire server infrastructure on VMs. Todd Hudson, a senior systems engineer whose team implemented an enterprise-wide virtual infrastructure that has dozens of hosts running hundreds of VMs, has some valuable advice to help ease your implementation in "Keys to a Successful Virtual Infrastructure Implementation."

And DevX Executive Editor Russell Jones, in his editorial "Virtual Machines: A Logical Evolution of Operating Systems," argues that although VMs have come a long way since their origins on IBM mainframes in the 1960's, developers and home users are just beginning to experience their benefits—and VMs still have some evolving to do.

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