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I'm brand new to the concept of virtualization and VMs and have downloaded VirtualBox and created my first VM (an Ubuntu box).

I understand that a "virtual appliance" is very similar to a VM, however it comes with a pre-configured software stack and may even include multiple virtual machines. If this first assumption is not correct, please correct me!

My main question is this: in VirtualBox land, what is the difference between creating a virtual machine and a virtual appliance? Are they different file types? If I had two or three VMs, how would I go about turning them or packaging them into an appliance?

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AFAIK, someone else created a VM, configured it, and provided the files for you to download and run it on your machine. – Daniel Beck Jan 6 '12 at 23:11
So if an "appliance" spanned multiple VMs, it would not manifest itself as a single file (e.g., "multi-vm-widget.appliance"), but you would have to launch several VMs separately (different files) and make sure they were all working with each other? – pnongrata Jan 6 '12 at 23:17
up vote 2 down vote accepted

None. A Virtual Appliance IS a prebuilt and configured Virtual Machine. It's a convenient way to deliver a application stack to a customer that will work without much setup.

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