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Hat Tip: Virtualization Daily. Network World has a great article pointing out the benefits of virtual appliances

The benefits are the same as those realized by traditional server virtualization -- server and storage capacity can be increased without investing in additional hardware -- but virtual appliances can also take advantage of the data center's virtualized failover, backup, change management and disaster recovery features, generating further efficiencies. In addition, virtual servers can be deployed for scalability or redundancy purposes on an as-needed basis at zero incremental cost.

The also point out that virtual appliances offer a great way to test new applications, save money and increase performance:

  • Streamlined product evaluations: Instead of waiting to get hardware in-house for evaluation, you can download a trial virtual appliance and begin using it in a matter of hours without having to interact with the vendor or reseller.
  • Simpler, more powerful lab environments: Virtual appliances make it easy to set up multiple appliances on a single server for testing purposes. You can try new products and modules, test configuration changes and evaluate different server configurations. You also can take a snapshot of your production environment and run it in a lab environment. Applying patches and upgrades can be performed at low cost in the lab environment on an identical snapshot of your production system.
  • Lower capital expenditures: Virtual appliances can save thousands of dollars on initial purchase price vs. hardware appliances, and thousands more by utilizing existing data center failover and disaster recovery resources. But make sure your virtual appliance vendor has a virtualization-friendly pricing model that is tied to number of users, for example, rather than number of CPUs (which makes little sense when you can instantiate any number of virtual appliances dynamically).
  • Increased performance and agility: Though there may be a small performance hit in running a virtual appliance on hardware that is otherwise identical to a vendor's hardware appliance platform, most servers used in virtual environments are more powerful than a single special-purpose appliance. So in practice, virtual appliances can offer superior performance in a cost-effective way.

I've been very pleased with the response to our VMware virtual appliance.. Two-factor authentication is an excellent example of the benefits of testing in a virtual lab. You may want to connect your WiKID server to a virtual network to test Radius or LDAP without actually touching your network. Plus, if you mess up the configuration, just roll-back or unzip the image again. A very simple, very painless way to evaluate two-factor authentication.

When you're ready to deploy, you can stay with a virtual server for two-factor authentication because the WiKID server is so scalable. Or, if you prefer a dedicated piece of hardware, you can use the .iso version to build your own two-factor appliance on your preferred hardware platform (no need to order a customer power supply from an appliance vendor when you have 3 in your supply closet). So, if you're looking for an easy way to test two-factor authentication, download our VMware image.

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