'Time Bomb' Snafu Hobbles VMware Users

VMware rushed out an emergency patch last week after a software-development snafu crippled the virtual servers of some users, who flooded the vendor's support forums with posts about the problem.

The glitch also prompted Paul Maritz , VMware's new CEO, to publicly apologize in the company's executive blog shortly before midnight Eastern time last Tuesday -- just minutes after the so-called express patch became available.

"We are doing everything in our power to make sure this doesn't happen again," wrote Maritz, who replaced ousted VMware co-founder Diane Greene in early July. He apologized for the "disruption and difficulty" and said that the virtualization market leader is reviewing its quality assurance and software-release processes.

Maritz acknowledged that in recent updates of VMware's ESX 3.5 and ESXi 3.5 products, developers neglected to remove code that prevented users from powering up their virtual machines when the calendar flipped to Aug. 12. Affected users, who saw error messages claiming that their software licenses had expired, also couldn't take virtual servers out of suspend mode or use VMware's VMotion migration tool to move them to other physical systems.

Although it's common for software developers to code a time limit into beta releases to force users to install the final version of a product, such automated deadlines -- often called "time bombs" -- are supposed to be removed at the end of the beta process.

After the patch was issued, a user identified as RobertGreenlee said in a message on a support forum that he had successfully updated ESX 3.5 on one of his host systems. "Unfortunately," he added, addressing VMware, "I think you've gotten a serious black eye today. We were finally getting management happy with the idea of using ESX for production servers, and this set us back."

He wasn't the only one taking shots at VMware over the problem, which left some virtual servers unusable for more than 20 hours.

"This will cast doubt about the reliability of VMware in the enterprise," wrote a VMware consultant and business partner using the name "wwcusa."

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