Recently I got the chance to evaluate Microsoft Dynamics. The demo toolkit however was delivered using the VM Express technology from Prowess [link].

In short, VM Express provides the framework and mechanism for deploying virtual machines. It also has options to deliver other content including documentation, videos, etc. Its a pretty neat concept. A nice feature is that Items updated after the initial DVD was created are downloaded in the background.

From the product website:

  • Super-efficient web delivery of VMs.
  • Dramatically lower storage size saves money on duplication and reduces frustration from failed downloads.
  • Smaller delta image files can be downloaded and deployed to a running state in minutes.
  • Less downtime because VM fixes and updates can be distributed quickly.
  • VM Express image architecture allows VMs to survive infinite updates

The toolkit for Dynamics comes on 3 dual-layer DVD’s (so that’s about 24gb on 3 dvd’s). It requires quite a bit of free space on the hard drive to install. For me it was time to delete my large pile of downloads. Guess I can re-download the latest Linux versions another day. The content of all 3 dvd’s gets dumped on your hard-drive. So at this stage all the virtualy machines are on your hard drive in the VMexpress folder. 

Once installed, it pops up a navigation panel. Its a fairly simple interface. You can filter content by the program and product. There is a neat search feature to quickly lookup any item. The search results too can be sorted and moving the mouse over the description column will pop-up a quick preview of the item description. Clicking on any item will display the install box on the right side. You can change the install location and it will reflect the space required, available, etc.

Depending on what you are trying to install you will be prompted to accept the usual terms and conditions of  blah blah blah. The crazy thing is that it will always create a folder for the item you install, create another folder withint that called docs and install the virtual machine or videos or documentation in that docs folder. This gets irritating once you begin to navigate the extracted files and have to keep going into the docs folder.

Another issue I have with the whole format is that it doesn’t give you the option to run the toolkit off the DVD’s. This would allow people to save a ton of space on the hard drive. 

The initial install too can be trouble some. I first tried to install the demo toolkit on my desktop. By the time VMExpress was done, there was no space left to extract the 30GB odd virtual machines. So I tried to install it on one of the spare IBM servers and use SAN storage but the dynamics toolkit itself wouldn’t install. Not sure why yet!

Overall I like the concept a lot. However it could use a lot of improvements.

Time for ratings:

  • User Interface: (4.5/5) (clean layout)
  • Documentation:  (2.5/5) 
  • Installation:  (2/5) (you need to be real techie to get this installed and running)
  • Usability: (3/5) (the installation of virtual machines and document could be improved)

Overall:  (3/5)