Oracle has released new tools for building virtual appliances, the software maker's first significant move in server virtualization since its purchase of Virtual Iron.

Oracle VM Template Builder, announced on Wednesday, is a graphical tool intended to help third-party developers and enterprise in-house teams create virtual appliances. The open-source product allows users to combine a JeOS (Just enough operating system) image of Oracle Enterprise Linux with applications and other software inside an Oracle VM or an OVF virtual machine. JeOS images contain only those components of an operating system needed for a specific task, reducing size and complexity, and improving speed and security.

The product releases come three months after Oracle purchased Virtual Iron, seen as a move by the company to strengthen its competition against VMware and generate more interest around its virtualization products, such as its hypervisor and its Oracle VM. While it makes sense for Oracle to try for a bigger foothold in the virtual appliance market, the database specialist may struggle to stand out, said Chris Ingle, a research director with IDC.

"People like VMWare have been offering this kind of technology for a while, and I'm not sure there's anything you can do within VM Template that can't already be done," he said.

If they use VM Template, independent software providers will benefit from having access to Oracle support and its customer base, said Monica Kumar, marketing director for open source products at Oracle. In addition, using the technology also means that the hypervisor, database and application stack are well tested and integrated, she said.

"What we're providing is pre-installed, pre-configured software. We know from experience that deploying ERP and CRM software can be very difficult and time-consuming, so building these templates will save customers enormously in time and resources," Kumar said.

The templates can be used with software from any developer or provider, and are not limited to Oracle products.

In a related announcement, the software maker introduced an Oracle VM Template designed specifically for Siebel CRM 8.1.1. It is based on Oracle Enterprise Linux and the 11g database, running on top of Oracle VM. In addition, the company said it has released a kit for testing virtual stacks before they are deployed, a move that is part of its Oracle Validated Configurations Program.