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MacStadium brings Orka Desktop for Devops

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Enterprise developers might not be the biggest audience, but they’re a really important one — so the news that MacStadium has introduced a tool that lets them create and manage multiple macOS virtual machines locally matters. It’s a free addition to the company’s existing suite of virtualization tools, which it introduced with Orka Workspace a year or two ago.

The time is right for tools like this. After all, developers are building more Mac, iPad, and iPhone apps than ever before, reflecting the growing market share of Apple products in the enterprise. The snag is that testing is required when building apps both for consumer/customer-facing solutions and also proprietary tools for internal use. 

This is where MacStadium’s new solution comes in. 

Orka Desktop, for free local virtualization

Orka Desktop is a free macOS virtualization tool that lets you deploy virtual Macs locally. What this means to developers, of course, is that they can more easily test apps on virtual Macs, which should help accelerate and democratize the development process.

This is particularly handy as single-use VMs provide trustworthy test results because they act as fresh installs, and subsequent testing takes place on a brand new VM. Use of such ephemeral VMs is becoming an industry standard approach in DevOps.

“Developers regularly use virtualization tooling, but most aren’t aware of the fundamental differences and optimizations that tools can provide for Mac,” said Jason Davis, MacStadium’s chief product officer.

There is a real need for these kinds of tools. One report on Apple use in the enterprise found that three-quarters (76%) of businesses are now using more Apple devices, so it is inarguable that a market for these tools exists.

What does Orka Desktop do?

The developers have put together a consumer-simple, deceptively capable user interface to support the virtual machines; it makes it easier to make changes to those machines from local machines to the cloud.

“Orka Desktop provides the tools to allow developers to create many different macOS image versions locally, commit those into a shared repository, and pass them around for collaboration,” MacStadium CTO Chris Chapman said in a statement. 

Orka Desktop is available now. Useful and powerful features within the system include the following:

  • You can start, stop, pause, and configure VMs easily from within the Orka Desktop admin panel.
  • Free local macOS virtualization provides developers with tools to create, package, and distribute VMs easily without cost.
  • Users get near-native performance on Apple Silicon, with virtualization overhead as low as 5%.
  • Developers can build and share Open Container Initiative (OCI) images, which helps improve collaboration and sharing on projects.
  • The ability to wrap and compress virtual machines using OCI means the size of the disk image can shrink, so a 90GB image becomes a 15GB equivalent, which makes it easier to move the images around. OCI also allows teams to work with most standards-based registries.
  • An easy-to-use GUI interface supports actions on VMs from local machines to the cloud, enhancing efficiency and flexibility.

Existing Orka customers can use Orka Desktop as an extension of their current MacStadium Orka Cluster, which makes it easier to switch from local to global development clusters and product deployment. This enhances team collaboration and offers safer, more reliable testing environments.

Why use VMs?

There are lots of reasons to use of VMs in development. Not only are they inherently easier to secure, but they can be adapted to simulate different hardware configurations — far more cost effective than using actual hardware test machines. They also provide distribution and simulation testing benefits for collaborative development groups.

Of course, this solution isn’t there for Windows or Linux VMs, (for that you may end up working with Parallels or Mac cloud services such as those from MacStadium and/or Amazon), but for Mac and iOS development Orka Desktop makes a lot of sense. Apple also seems to recognize the need to run VMs and recently introduced iCloud support to VM macs.

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