DMTF OVF standard reaches 1.0

Virtual appliances have been around for a while, but will it take a standard like DMTF's OVF to make them truly successful?

Back in September 2008, the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) announced the virtualization standard known as the Open Virtualization Format, or OVF, had reached the preliminary standard status.  Now, some six months later, the DMTF has finally released the first finished version of OVF, a final 1.0 version.

The DMTF is an industry organization that has tasked itself with bringing the IT industry together to collaborate on systems management standards development, validation, promotion, and adoption.  OVF came out of the DMTF's Virtualization Management (VMAN) initiative, an effort to provide seamless management for heterogeneous virtual infrastructures by delivering on interoperability and portability standards for virtual computing environments.

[ Find out more about how the DMTF is meeting virtualization management challenges | Citrix Project Kensho aims to simplify mixed virtual environments and is based on the OVF format | Related: DMTF creates open cloud incubator ]

OVF simplifies interoperability, security, and virtual machine lifecycle management by describing an open, secure, portable, efficient, and extensible format for the packaging and distribution of one or more virtual appliances and applications.  This enables software developers to ship pre-configured, ready-to-deploy solutions, allowing end-users to distribute applications into their environments with minimal effort. The standard can also serve as a building block for cloud computing.

With this 1.0 version, the group concentrated on developing a set of descriptive metadata tags that could instruct the underlying virtualization platform with a simple set of commands. It is important to remember that OVF does not replace the proprietary virtual hard disk formats of the virtualization platform providers themselves. Formats such as VMware's VMDK and Microsoft's VHD are still intact. OVF itself is not a format.

"OVF is the first standard to enable interoperability within virtualized environments, offering customers virtualization platform independence and flexibility," said Winston Bumpus, DMTF president."The delivery of the 1.0 standard is an indication of DMTF's continued commitment to driving standardization of IT management systems."

To continue to foster and advance the adoption of virtual appliances, it is clear that the OVF standard is the first major step taken to help provide for the next generation of virtual appliance technology.

Key benefits of the OVF standard include:

  • Portable VM packaging -- OVF is virtualization platform neutral, supporting any open virtual hard disk formats.  Virtual machine properties are captured using OVF metadata.
  • Optimized for secure distribution -- OVF supports content verification and integrity checking based on industry standard public key infrastructure and provides a basic schema for management of software licensing.
  • Simplified installation and deployment -- During installation, metadata in the OVF file can be used to validate the entire package and automatically determine whether the virtual appliance can be installed.
  • Supports both single VM and multi-VM configurations -- OVF supports a single VM virtual appliance and packages that contain complex, multitiered services consisting of multiple interdependent virtual machines.
  • Vendor and platform independent -- The OVF does not rely on the use of a specific host platform, virtualization platform, or guest operating system.
  • Extensible -- OVF is immediately useful.  It is designed to be extended as the industry moves forward with the virtual appliance technology. It also supports and permits the encoding of vendor-specific metadata to support specific vertical markets.
  • Localizable -- Supports user visible descriptions in multiple locales and supports localization of the interactive processes during installation of a virtual appliance. This allows a single packaged virtual appliance to serve multiple market opportunities.

In addition to the standard, the DMTF VMAN site also offers a white paper to explain how OVF works.