In a more perfect world, IT companies would help free their customers from the infrastructure constraints that define every data center.
IBM Research is doing just that. With the development of a virtual machine (VM) image library, researchers at IBM seek to give customers a way to use virtual software images in order to run their myriad business applications.
The library will also offer data centers greater automation and lower operational costs. Indeed, VM images make ideal interfaces for compute clouds that deliver data center infrastructure as a cost-effective Web service.
At the moment, commercial realities are slowing the VM image library’s time-to-market:
* Cloud providers are building their own custom VM image libraries. Customers soon discover that interoperability is difficult or impossible – and they are frequently hobbled by vendor lock-in. Customers typically want VM images that contain software components from a variety of software publishers. Using heterogeneous software images, though, is possible only if publishers cooperate with each other to create interoperable images.
* As VM image libraries grow larger, customers find it increasingly difficult to locate a VM image that is “close enough” to what they want.
Growing a library on a services model
IBM is collaborating with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and North Carolina State University (NCSU) on an open VM image library that will provide a cloud-neutral interface for cloud providers, customers and software publishers. The image library draws on each partner’s innovative technologies in publishing, searching, authenticating and retrieving VM images. The images will be delivered in a format that adheres to widely accepted standards for interoperability, and they will be accessible on almost any cloud.
Every publisher in the VM image library ecosystem will retain the licensing rights to their software component. Cloud providers will certify that the customer has the necessary licenses to retrieve a particular software component.
Software is like any other digital data
“A virtual machine image library lets you treat pre-installed software environments like any other digital data,” says Vasanth Bala, research staff member and manager of the IBM virtualization runtime & tools team. “Software images can be referenced by Web urls, encoded as a MIME time, digitally signed and verified, indexed and searched – and even streamed over the Internet to a local image player that provides a virtual machine container for its execution.”
The three-way collaboration is a project of IBM Open Collaborative Research, a program that supports open source software research between IBM and universities. Software developed in an OCR project is made available as open source.
While the collaboration is based on the sharing of open source code, private enterprises also can tap into the image library.
See sidebar for an overview of the VM image library technology.
For information about Open Collaborative Research, contact Steve Lavenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated on March 24, 2010