VMware Labs indulges in 'flings' for virtual environments

The experimental projects, known as 'flings,' are free and interesting tools created by VMware engineers for the user community

For a little over a year, VMware has been producing experimental yet free and interesting tools for its virtualization platform over at VMware Labs, where VMware engineers seem to be empowered by the company to get creative by developing cool tools that are not yet part of any official product offering and sharing those tools with VMware's enthusiastic community of users.

These VMware experimental projects are called "flings" and are defined in the lab as "a brief casual relationship" intended to be "a short-term thing." In addition to being free of charge, they are also offered under Technical Preview or relevant open source licensing. The company said these tools are intended to be played with and explored, but be warned -- they do not come with VMware support and therefore shouldn't be used in your production environment.

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But don't let the official "You've been warned" message take the air out of your sails. The tools are after all totally free and can prove to be a lot of fun and highly valuable. And unlike with so many other free tools on the market today, you don't even have to fill out any forms before downloading them. Score!

Some of the more interesting tools are highlighted as "featured flings," which receive top honors within the VMware Labs environment. Featured flings include such tools as VMware Guest Console (VGC), an application used to manage the Guest Operating Systems installed on a VM with features such as a task manager, file system explorer, and snapshot manager; VMware vCenter Mobile Access (vCMA), which allows the user to monitor and manage a VMware Infrastructure from a mobile phone device; Onyx, a stand-alone application that serves as a proxy between the vSphere Client and the vCenter Server, monitoring the network communication between them; and Virtual USB Analyzer, used for visualizing logs of USB packets, from hardware or software USB sniffer tools.

VMware Labs also breaks down a list of Top Flings, sorted for your convenience into either the latest or the most popular. Currently the site offers a total of 19 interesting and useful flings.

This week the VMware Labs site quietly launched the first fling of 2011, called IOBlazer. It's described as a multiplatform storage stack micro-benchmark tool. The software is released under the MIT License, and it comes from Davide Bergamasco, who works in the VMware performance group.

VMware Labs describes the new fling:

IOBlazer runs on Linux, Windows and OSX and it is capable of generating a highly customizable workload. Parameters like IO size and pattern, burstiness (number of outstanding IOs), burst interarrival time, read vs. write mix, buffered vs. direct IO, etc., can be configured independently.

IOBlazer is said to have evolved from a minimalist Microsoft SQL Server emulator, which focused solely on the I/O component of the workload. The original tool had limited capabilities and generated a very specific workload based on the SQL Server I/O model. But IOBlazer has been created with a far more generic I/O model in mind, and comes with a very useful new feature -- the capability to play back VSCSI traces captured on VMware ESX through the vscsiStats utility. This allows IOBlazer to generate a synthetic workload that is absolutely identical to the disk activity of a virtual machine, which ensures 100 percent experiment repeatability.

If you want to get your hands on this latest fling or any of the other 18 experimental flings that are "meant to be played with and explored," check out the VMware Labs website and start downloading them now. And don't forget to vote for your favorite or leave feedback and comments for the author and other would-be downloaders.

This article, "VMware Labs indulges in 'flings' for virtual environments," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization and cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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