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Jolt Awards: Utilities

, July 24, 2012 The Jolt judges combed through more than 40 products to find the very best developer utilities. We now reveal the Jolt Award winner and the runners-up.
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Jolt Productivity Award: VMware Workstation 8

That virtualization has profoundly transformed production IT is hardly news — it's just how server technology is now done. We developers were the first to use VM Workstation back when it was a novel hack on the hardware-abstraction features of the 80386. But with later releases, such as the present VMWare Workstation 8, the technology wave is uniting development, testing, and production via sharing of virtual machines (VMs).

Workstation 8 removes so many barriers to a smooth workflow that it presents a qualitatively different experience. Whereas once the virtualization universe was divided into hand-tooled, dead-end VMs marooned on developers' ever-more-resource-hungry PCs, and massive arrays of them down in production on the server farm, Workstation 8 lets you manage them from the same UI.

For me, deploying a Rails app used to mean endlessly tweaking Apache configurations. Running VMWare Fusion was way better, but the server guy still had to import my VMs. With Workstation 8, I can download a turnkey Linux VM image, bung my app into it, develop on my local box, give my partner access to run it (without copying it) from his laptop, deploy it onto vSphere when it's good to go, upscale the disk and memory to production-scale levels that wouldn't fit on my PC, and manage the deployed VM — all from within the product.

The Jolt judges were also impressed with other features, some new, some not, like the ability to suck the contents right out of an existing hardware box in order to virtualize it, or to create virtual appliances with the free VMWare Studio add-on. But the clearest single sentiment was that this product is simply the class of the industry.

— Rick Wayne

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