On the dangers of OVF

Usually I`m all in favour of Open Standards that are supported by different parties, and the Open Virtual Machine Format (OVF) pretty much matches these requirements.
The last Virtualbox has support for it, Simon is telling about it being part of the new XenConvert v2 Tech Preview .
However, Reuven wonders why it hasn’t gained widespread adoption yet.

Here’s my take, .. I`m not in favour of a standard as OVF that provides an easy way to transfer packaged virtual machine instance between different platforms.

Why ? Because I don’t think transferring full images of Virtual machines around is a good idea, not on 1 platform, not on different platforms.
And I`m not the only one with that opinion.

A Virtual Machine image is the perfect vehicle for malware in your network … some prepares an image for you , you run it on your network, and you set loose the devil, who knows it does a networkscan in the background and sends the info

OVF is a good breeding area for VM Image Sprawl,the effect you get when the number of images you have grows beyond what you can easily maintain, and this time it can grow beyond the people only using proprietary software , where as Image Sprawl used to be a disease mostly diagnosed within the VMWare usergroups and sysdamins with no clue on large scale deployments OVF

Sure OVF will assist smooth migration between different platforms so vendors want to keep it as far away from their users as possible, but people that already have a platform agnostic deployment framework in place don’t really need to worry about deploying on different platforms.

About the author

Kris Buytaert is a long time Linux and Open Source Consultant active in Belgium , Europe and the rest of the universe. He is currently working for Inuits Kris is the Co-Author of Virtualization with Xen ,used to be the maintainer of the openMosix HOWTO and author of different technical publications. He is frequently speaking at, or organizing different international conferences He spends most of his time working on Linux Clustering (both High Availability, Scalability and HPC), Virtualisation and Large Infrastructure Management projects hence trying to build infrastructures that can survive the 10th floor test, better known today as the cloud while actively promoting the devops idea ! His blog titled "Everything is a Freaking DNS Problem" can be found at http://www.krisbuytaert.be/blog/


  1. Patrick says:

    So i think you have to see 2 POVs:

    First it is a easy way to transfer Virtual Machines within a Infrastructure (no one can change the images before). Its an easy way to check ESX VMware to VirtualBox and other products.

    The Second view is the exchange of completely strangers. So i wouldn’t never run an OVF provided on a website or somewhere else.

    And so the result is, only the administrator can make an choice how to work. Because a IT environment is only as safe as the administrator take care of it.

  2. Kris:

    I just checked the date and it’s not April 1st, but this must be a joke, right?

    VM mobility is one of the key construct benefits of virtualization platforms in delivering automation and autonomics…the “VM sprawl will doom us all!” rant is a Chicken Little scenario.

    Further the “perfect malware storm” is just as silly of a hyperbolic corner case as you can get.

    If you look at the longer term policy enforcement capabilities of OVF (and VMAN) and the ability to finally homogenize the management and security across virtualization platforms, OVF is a win.

    Come on, really?


  3. wishinet says:

    And Windows is dangerous because of the exact same reasons. I’m not the only one having this opinion: the windows binary format is useable to spread malware.

  4. nick says:

    This has got to be the most ridiculous argument.

  5. I would like to suggest to try out openQRM. That way you can perfectly separate “hardware” (virtual or phyiscal) from “software” (your server-images). With openQRM you are completely independent from any virtual disk-image format. Server-images in openQRM are “just” root-filesystems and you can deploy them to virtual machines of any type and also transparently migrate them to other virtualization technologies and even to physical machines at any time without touching or changing your server-image in any way nor adapting any virtualization configuration files at all.
    .. just my 2 cents, i can live without OVF.

  6. Sebastian Otaegui says:

    Shouldn’t be a way to securely sign the machine image as there is with other software packages?
    The format and the host should support some sort of secure authentication.
    Like with application installation packages.


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