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I am not very well acquainted with VM Ware and Virtualization but I am investigating the feasibility of creating a VM Instance using VMWare, Windows Server 2008 R2, and shipping that VM as a complete solution to a client. Is this possible? If I were the organisation shipping the VM to another organisation would CTO's within that organisation allow a VM instance to be launched on their network?

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You need to become more acquainted before you think that far ahead. Take a VMware class and a security+ class before doing this professionally. has a bunch of links for training resources on their website. – Ben Campbell Nov 4 '11 at 9:42
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Okay, there are several posters here saying that you need to know more before you attempt this...

I totally disagree.

It's actually really straightforward to stick a VM on a drive and boot it up at a client. I've done this with Windows Hyper V VMs. Lots of companies do this. I personally don't even bother going through the 'export/import' procedure - I simply take the virtual hard drive (which is just a file anyway so carry it on a USB stick, RDX drive, USB drive or whatever) and configure it as a new virtual machine on the clients server, joining it to their domain.

I think the security issue is a red herring. Clients in the SMB sector who trust you to do work for them already are likely to say 'uh.. the server is over there' and let you get on with it. I'm speaking as someone whose company is certified for information security (ISO 27001) and never gets asked about it.

In a Windows environment you are going to have to think about whether your client's' licensing covers the virtual machine. From a licensing point of view, the poster who suggested vApp in ESXi may be on to something.

If you've already written an app that a client wants, you're really not going to find distributing it as a VM to be technically challenging. Sensibly you will always deliver products to a client with a legal contract in place and it might be worth adding a clause saying that you are not responsible for the VM becoming a virus laden hulk because your client hasn't patched it as part of their environmental management scheme. Take care of that and just go for it.

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Sure, it can be done. However a single mistake can bring the whole thing crashing down. You come from experience, the OP says they don't. And your reasoning doesn't fly very well when you get audited or work for government or other clients with such requirements. That's one thing you're missing. OP is assuming ALL the risk. If I were the client I would want to know that the company knew what they were doing... And no just doing it cause it's easy o – Ben Campbell Nov 5 '11 at 0:16
With all due respect Ben, this posting is about a delivery mechanism for software. The issues you are raising concerning security and competence are problems we which beset any third party software, regardless of whether it is delivered as an executable or as a virtual machine. A virtual appliance is easier to quarantine in initial testing than installing an executable on a server that has other roles on which your network has some dependency (to give a specific scenario). As dunxd writes, this kind of thing is going to become more common. – Mark Lawrence Nov 5 '11 at 23:35
My response is directly related to the second question... "CTO allow". And with all due respect, you are over-simplifying the technical side of this as well. If a client runs a VM farm, and it's straightforward, where is the value to the client? And as a CTO: No, I wouldn't allow this in my institution. – Ben Campbell Nov 6 '11 at 20:57
I don't wish to play title trumps, but I am the CEO of a healthcare services company that is audited at least twice a year for ISO 9001 and 27001 (I'm dealing with GxPs as well). So I'm speaking as an entrepreneur when I said go for it. You are likely to find clients who will appreciate the alternative you are offering them. Where is the value? How about using the VM to provide a demo (like microsoft)? – Mark Lawrence Nov 6 '11 at 21:25
For the record I'm not a CTO. Just answering as if I was one. – Ben Campbell Nov 10 '11 at 1:23

It's certainly possible to ship or send a virtual disk or a whole machine folder. I've done it with VDMK disks, merely copy it to a USB and move it, then import to a datastore.

As for would SysAdmins/CTO's allow it? Well, it would depend on the company, not asking us, and I imagine Licensing would get a bit interesting. Would you be happy if someoneone gave you a virtual machine/virtual appliance and said "here you go. It's perfectly safe, really, honestly". You'd want proof that there's nothing nasty or could compramise the network, plus the client would also probably want to configure it to their network, naming structure, etc. There are a incredible amount of security/legal issues and if you don't nail them down right then you could be facing a whole load of hurt.

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You could use VMware Converter to export the whole VM as a single OVA file, which can then be sent to the client.

You need to think carefully about things like licensing and license keys, server naming, and joining the server to a domain on the clients network.

I am sure this sort of thing will become quite common in future, and those things should become simpler - right now you need to talk in depth with your client and agree the details.

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Yes, it's possible although you will need to learn a good bit more that you apparently currently know before implementing it.

VMWare even has a "virtual appliance store" for distributing this kind of pre-configured VMs. Typically, the vm you're going to be shipping will require the end user to go through a setup phase that will integrate it in the target network, though.

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Why not set it up as a vApp in ESXi ?

It runs on barebones metal and is absolutely free to use and distribute.

It also takes far less resources, and the VM is guaranteed to be more compatible within the same ESXi series than between different Windows machines.

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actually, this sounds like a better idea than moving the disks. Still may have legal issues though. – tombull89 Nov 4 '11 at 10:08

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