OpenVZ and Ubuntu Linux developers on Tuesday will release pre-built Ubuntu virtual machines, designed to allow system administrators to deploy a specialised Ubuntu system in about a minute.

OpenVZ is an open-source project sponsored by Parallels (known as SWsoft until last month), which forms the basis for the commercial virtualisation software Virtuozzo. Parallels also makes desktop virtualisation software for Mac OS X, among other products.

Parallels and Canonical, Ubuntu's commercial sponsor, worked together on the virtualised templates, which are based on Ubuntu 7.10.

OpenVZ users will be able to download and customise the templates, allowing the quick deployment of either desktop or server instances. For example, a web server could be optimised for web-server tasks, or a desktop template could be equipped with applications of the organisation's choice.

"We wanted to give our users a fast, easy way to deploy Ubuntu in a virtualised environment," said OpenVZ project manager Kir Kolyshkin.

Commercial support will be available from Parallels or Canonical.

OpenVZ is an operating system-level virtualisation technology, meaning that both the host and guest systems must be Linux, but this limitation gives OpenVZ a performance advantage over virtual machines such as VMware or paravirtualisation technologies such as Xen.

In November the OpenVZ project released an update combining operating system level virtualisation with paravirtualisation. The technology allows OpenVZ users to divide one physical server into paravirtualised servers using Xen, and then run OpenVZ instances within those virtual servers.