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Virtual Machines in the Build Process: Lower Risk, Greater Portability : Page 3

When you set up a clean build environment inside a virtual machine, the build environment is not only independent of the host environment but it also is easy to back up and restore, and port to new hardware.

Porting Your VM Environment
Now that your VM is backed up and working, you can move it to any machine that has the VMware products installed. Your build environment is no longer tied to a particular piece of hardware. If you're lucky enough to acquire a new, faster machine to run your build on, you can quickly and easily move the build machine VM to your new hardware without having to reconfigure the guest operating system.

This feature also comes in handy if you are unlucky enough to have a hardware failure. In that case, you can restore your VM from your backup either to a new machine or, if you've managed to fix the hardware failure, to your old machine. Virtualization products can protect the investment of time and effort you made in setting up your build environment.

In our organization, quite often more than one person becomes responsible for a particular build process. For instance, our second-level support team may need to write a patch for an issue that a customer reported. In that case, they need to be able to quickly set up an environment to build and test the patch they are creating. What happens if someone else needs to run your build where you work? The steps required to set up and configure your build environment likely are well documented, but providing a fully set up and working VM that requires little or no customization is far easier on the support team. They can then concentrate on getting the patch out sooner to satisfy customer demands.

You also may not work on the same product throughout its life cycle. If your product gets transitioned to a new team of developers, or you change positions either within or outside your organization, it's very convenient to be able to hand someone a fully working VM rather than a set of instructions for creating the build environment. This VM hand-off will get the new team up and running quicker and allow them to concentrate on other parts of the development process.

A Seamless, Fault-Tolerant Build Process with VMs
Virtualization products have redefined how we approach development in my organization. Our build process is smoother, and we face fewer interruptions when the bad things inevitably happen. Snapshots have made upgrading and rolling back our build environment much easier and less destructive, and our host machine can remain untouched while we reconfigure the guest operating system for whatever changes the build requires.

Both VMware Server and VMware Workstation now allow you to put your VM in the background, thus hiding the GUI. So the VM continues to run while you work on other things either on the host or in another VM. If you haven't done so already, it's time to evaluate the benefits VMs can deliver to your build process.

Joe Silsby is a senior software engineer at CA.
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