VMware is to open up its virtual machine (VM) format, with no licence required. According to VMware's European technology marketing manager Richard Garsthagen, any partner or company can use it to incorporate their technology into their VMs.

Garsthagen said that those most likely to take advantage of the move were its partners. They could, for example, develop software to migrate physical machine to VMs. Another application he mentioned was software patching, which could be performed without having to run the VM, along with other automated, scripted procedures. He said that those who had already shown an interest included major ISVs such as BMC Software, Symantec and IBM.

According to Garsthagen, VMware's motivation in making the move, the third in its bid to open its products to the development community, had little to do with kyboshing the competition. Instead, he insisted: "We want people to be aware of what virtualisation is all about as many don't have an idea of what virtualisation can do. We think it's important that the virtualisation market is developed, and you can only do that through an open standard. We opened up our source code recently, and this is the next step towards openness. We think customers will benefit due to more and better solutions, and more integration."

A virtual machine encapsulates an entire server or desktop environment in a file. The virtual machine disk format specification describes and documents the virtual machine environment and how it is stored. This move puts VMware on a par with open source company XenSource with respect to the VM format, at least.