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Shrinking VM snapshots of builds and releases

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The traffic on our blog tells us that there is intense interest in the topic of shrinking virtual machines – vmdk’s vhd’s, vdi’s, to recover free space and improve performance. Our offer to release a software tool to let you view how much storage you could recover has brought several responses from people who are willing to try it.

I found the following response very interesting because it outlines the development usage of VM’s, in contrast with production scenarios that one usually reads about, within a very large multinational software development company whose products are used worldwide:

We capture the build environment and its dependencies together with the end product of the build, the released software, in a VM. During the lifecyle of a major product release, we end up with over 300 builds, i.e., over 300 VM’s. Some of these VM’s are shared with other development teams who have to integration test their builds with our own. Builds corresponding to the major external milestones, e.g., Beta-1, Beta-2, etc. are provided to our technology partners and even to end customers so that we can get early feedback on our product.

We store all these VM’s on a Windows file share and we preserve all VM’s throughout the release cycle and those corresponding to major internal integration and external Beta milestones for at least 6 months beyond the release date. Our goal is to be able to recreate an issue and verify that it is indeed fixed in a later release. So our storage needs are growing annually and its demands on our budget are rising in prominence. We would love to be able to shrink these images to the minimum essential size and leverage our investment in storage far more effectively.

Our Release Management team uses spreadsheets and file naming conventions for managing this store. However, at any given point in time it is very hard for us to match issues that are reported precisely to the release (VM) where it was introduced.

We do share these VM’s between teams but the sharing is achieved using file shares on the LAN. This is very limiting for us since we have development centers in the US (East and West Coast), China, India and sales engineers globally, but given the network bandwidth demands, we don’t even attempt large transfers. Given the size of these images, we support http downloads from an intranet site for teams that are not on our LAN.

In summary, this development team is facing three problems:

  1. VM compaction to recover free space and reduce impact on their budget
  2. VM tagging to identify them by key attributes
  3. VM network transfers take very long to complete

Thank you for sharing this kind of input, we intend to help you resolve such issues.

Written by paule1s

January 5, 2009 at 2:54 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] post: Shrinking VM snapshots of builds and releases. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)VMWare Workstation Linked […]

  2. Hi,
    You and your readers might be interested in reading this post on the benefit of linked clones in a dev/test environment.

    I’ve included a brief video there as well.

    Srihari Palangala

    Srihari Palangala

    January 20, 2009 at 1:04 am

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