That operating-system-level server virtualization software, developed by the OpenVZ Project, is built on Linux and creates isolated, secure virtual environments on a single physical server. These virtual servers ensure that applications do not conflict and can be rebooted independently.
OpenVZ resembles the Containers feature found in Sun Microsystems freely available Solaris 10 operating system, in that both technologies allow multiple instances to run under a single host kernel.
"This is an important milestone in delivering our open-source virtualization software to the user community and the large base of Debian users, and represents another step in our mission toward gaining adoption as part of the mainstream Linux kernel and other Linux distributions, which now include Debian, Mandriva, Gentoo Linux and ALT Linux Sisyphus," Kir Kolyshkin, manager of the OpenVZ Project, told eWEEK Aug. 3.
That sentiment is echoed by Till Brehm, chief technology officer for HowtoForge.com. "Making OpenVZ virtualization available is a huge benefit for the Debian user community as we can gain significant benefits, most of all improved utilization rates, which results directly in saved money, by carving physical servers into logical units," Brehm said.
Virtualization software is designed to exploit the underutilization of many servers, particularly given the advances in CPU power, effectively splitting the server into many small ones, each running tasks, so that the whole server is utilized more efficiently.
The OpenVZ Project was created at the end of 2005, when SWsoft released the core of its operating-system-level virtualization product, Virtuozzo.
Asked what the plans are to get the OpenVZ technology into the distributions of the leading Linux vendors Red Hat and Novells SUSE, Kolyshkin said the OpenVZ patchset has already been provided for the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 kernel and that the SUSE engineers are currently evaluating the technology.
He pointed to comments made earlier this year by Holger Dyroff, vice president of Linux Server product management at Novell, where Dyroff said Novell is committed to bringing the latest advances in virtualization "and will evaluate the technology for possible inclusion in a future release of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10."
Kolyshkin also referenced comments made by Brian Stevens, CTO at Red Hat, in a March Webcast, where he said the company saw a strong use case for lightweight, container-based virtualization and will "get behind that, absolutely."
With regard to the Xen virtualization technology that both Red Hat and SUSE have agreed to include in their distributions, Kolyshkin said they are employing different virtualization approaches that can "happily coexist."
"Depending on the task and all the specifics, you either choose Xen or OpenVZ to solve it, or even employ both. Here, as in the case with the distributions, diversity is good," he said.
OpenVZ is also actively working toward getting its technology included in the Linux kernel, Kolyshkin said, adding that Linus Torvalds, founder and leader of Linux, and Andrew Morton, who maintains the stable kernel, are quite favorable to operating-system-level virtualization, which is the technology OpenVZ employs.
"They support including it, but there are other groups working in this same area, and for inclusion in the Linux kernel to happen, all the groups have to first reach consensus. And there are a lot of topics to be discussed and agreed on," he said.
The members of these groups are constantly in discussion over mailing lists, exchanging patches and ideas, and generally moving forward. "It seems the overall feeling among the kernel people is that containers are a good feature to have in the Linux kernel and should get merged into the mainstream. Sooner or later, we will be there," Kolyshkin said.
Debian users will now be able to provision physical servers to run applications on virtual servers, and the OpenVZ Project is providing Debian templates that allow for rapid provisioning of a virtual server.
The Debian software including OpenVZ can be downloaded here.
Users can access installation instructions from the OpenVZ wiki, which includes documentation and a knowledge base.
The OpenVZ Project has also revised the licensing terms for its user-level utilities under the GNU GPL (General Public License) to comply with the Debian Free Software Guidelines. In addition, the OpenVZ software now conforms with the LSB/FHS (Linux Standard Base/File Hierarchy Standard).