By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2006-04-02 Print this article Print

As of late, enterprises have grown considerably more enamored of x86 server virtualization technologies—and of the consolidation and utilization benefits that flow from running more servers on fewer physical machines. SWsofts Virtuozzo for Linux 3.0 offers enterprises a compelling path to virtualizations less-is-more virtues, while delivering system management benefits that competing products arent designed to match.

Solutions from VMware and Microsoft virtualize a complete machine, and, from a system management standpoint, running virtual servers on these products is an awful lot like running a set of physical boxes. Rather than virtualize a complete x86 machine, Virtuozzo virtualizes only the operating system layer.
Guest instances—or VPSes (virtual private servers), in Virtuozzo parlance—operate under the kernel of the host machine, in much the same way that Containers do in Sun Microsystems Solaris 10.

As a result, a Virtuozzo host system enjoys a more intimate relationship with the guest instances it hosts—one that allows for all sorts of management opportunities, such as very granular resource allocation controls. In fact, Virtuozzos management prowess—which we found excellently exposed through the products administration tools—impressed eWEEK Labs enough to grant the product our Analysts Choice designation.

The main functional limitation of Virtuozzos virtualization approach is that the applications to be virtualized must run on Linux, just as Containers-hosted applications must run on Solaris. However, because a broader range of applications run on Linux than on Solaris, this requirement is much less onerous for Virtuozzo machines than it is for Solaris boxes.

Companies interested in consolidating Linux servers onto fewer, more manageable machines would do well to evaluate the product further.

Click here to read about Virtuozzo for Windows 3.5. SWsoft also sells a Windows version of Virtuozzo, which we plan to test when the next version becomes available.


The x86 and x86-64 versions of Virtuozzo for Linux 3.0 are each priced at $1,000 per physical CPU. The Itanium version of Virtuozzo for Linux costs $1,500 per CPU. Dual-core chips do not count as multiple CPUs for the purposes of licensing. The products fat-client management console is priced at $1,000 per seat, and its Web-based management interface costs $350 per server.

We found Virtuozzo fairly easy to install and configure, although properly creating templates for guest operating systems and for applications will take a bit more time and know-how than installing applications on regular physical hardware.

While its possible to install applications on a VPS just as you would on a physical system, you have to create and use templates for the sorts of VPSes and VPS applications that you wish to deploy to get the most out of Virtuozzos management capabilities.

These configuration tasks, which we could accomplish using template-creation tools that ship with the product, will add up to higher initial deployment costs in terms of time. However, organizations should expect to offset that expense with savings in long-term maintenance.

SWsoft has recently launched an open-source project called OpenVZ, for which the company has released the core of Virtuozzo under the GNU GPL (General Public License). OpenVZ lacks the management tools of Virtuozzo, but it promises to offer a free point of entry for sites interested in giving the Virtuozzo model a try. (For more information on OpenVZ, go to openvz.org.)

According to SWsoft, the minimum hardware requirements for Virtuozzo are a Pentium III server with at least 1GB of memory and 4GB of available hard drive space. Virtuozzo for Linux supports the x86, ia64, AMD64 and EM64T (Extended Memory 64 Technology) processor architectures. eWEEK Labs tested Virtuozzo on a machine powered by a single 2.53MHz Pentium IV chip with 1GB of RAM.

Like Solaris Containers, Virtuozzo VPSes can operate with reduced processor, memory and disk overhead because guests dont run their own kernel. In addition, overlapping binaries and libraries for similar guests running together on a machine can be shared, so its possible to squeeze more VPSes onto a system than you could with a full-machine virtualization approach.

Open-source technology is ready to take a major step forward into the competitive virtual machine space. Click here to read more. For the host machine, Virtuozzo supports Red Hat Linux 9, Fedora Core versions 1 through 4, RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 3 and 4, CentOS 3.4 and 4, and SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) 9.

Running Virtuozzo requires installing a Virtuozzo kernel on your Linux box—the version we tested was based on the 2.6.8 version of the Linux kernel, the same version that RHEL 4 currently runs.

Applications that require particular kernel modules other than those that ship with the default Linux kernel may not work with Virtuozzo, although most Linux applications will run fine under Virtuozzo.

On the guest side, Virtuozzo supports Red Hat Linux 7.1, 7.3 and 9; RHEL 3 and 4; Fedora Core 1 through 4; CentOS 3.4 and 4; SUSE 8.2 through 9.3; SLES 9; and Debian 3.0 and 3.1.

The installation media with which we conducted our tests included templates for Fedora Core 4, RHEL 4, SLES 9 and a few other operating system templates, as well as application templates for common Linux stack components, such as MySQL and PHP.

Next Page: Flexible management muscle

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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