Scott Lowe, a senior IT executive with the IT management firm CampusWorks, calls the virtual appliance the "lazy person's dream" -- in a good way. He suggests your first stop to learn more about these, if you run EMC VMware's virtualization technology, should be the VMmare Virtual Appliance Marketplace, which has for sale hundreds of VM systems ready to go. He also recommends Virtualappliances.net, which has Ubuntu Linux-based VMs for just about everything, including network monitoring and Web services.
Of course, virtual appliances may not be what you need for every circumstance. The flexibility and scalability you require, as well as the cost, will largely determine when to go virtual and when to go physical. In some cases, you may choose to use a hardware appliance for your production environments but use virtual appliances for lab testing. If availability is an issue, a virtual appliance may be deployable more quickly should your hardware appliance fizzle. If you're already using server virtualization, virtual appliances may be a better fit to your deploment architecture than hardware appliances. Those are just some of the considerations you'll need to run through.
Whether in a lab or production environment, the use of virtual appliances can make it much easier to test and eventually deploy new software. Make sure to consider it.
This article, "End the appliance-sprawl blues with virtual appliances," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.