When I tell people that the concept of copying VM's around as frequently done in the VMWare world is one of the most stupid ideas on this planet, I get the weirdest looks.
In my world it is, I want my infrastructure to be reproducible , I want to be able to throw any machine in my infrastructure out of the 10th floor of a building and be up and running again in no time. If I spread a bunch of VM copies around who knows what kind of life they start leading. Some will get upgrades, some won't ..
If I get an image from someone, how did he get there ? Nobody knows ..
To me Image Sprawl is more than not being able to to manage your Virtual Machines, it also matters for physical machines that are being deployed using a golden image.
Now rewind back about 4 something years.. back then I wrote a paper for LinuxKongress titled Automating Xen Virtual Machine Deployment which described a Hybrid way of Bootstrapping an infrastructure.
Quicly summarized, you use the benefits of images to quickly deploy a minimal image which
Luke today calls a Stem Cell then go on using centralized package management and a configuration management tool to keep them up to par. There are 2 things that changed in between,
we replaced CFEngine with Puppet , and the fact that today some people do care a bit more about the infrastructure side of the web, guess we have to thank Amazon and the Cloud Hype for that
But fundamentally .. not that much changed :)