With its ConVirt Enterprise 3, Convirture helps IT organizations put to work the virtualization capabilities present in all modern Linux-based server operating systems. The product, which I reviewed in its version 2 form last year, plays a role similar to what VMware's vCenter plays for its ESX hypervisor hosts, but at a lower cost.
New in version 3 is a set of capabilities, called ConVirt Enterprise Cloud, for building pools of ConVirt-managed hosts into private clouds. IT departments can divvy their virtualization resources into virtual data centers, each with its own set of available virtual machine templates, resource quotas and segregated networks. Administrators can create accounts on these separate clouds and give users access to the resources through ConVirt's Web-based console.
What's more, administrators can yoke their ConVirt management environment up to third-party clouds based on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), OpenStack or Eucalyptus, and apply the same resource and access controls to these clouds as to those running on their ConVirt-managed hosts.
I tested ConVirt Enterprise 3 and ConVirt Enterprise Cloud with CentOS-based virtualization hosts running the Kernal-based VM (KVM) hypervisor (the product also supports Xen hosts), with Amazon's public EC2 cloud and with a private cloud based on the OpenStack project.
As a lower-cost alternative to vSphere, ConVirt is certainly worth IT consideration. Pricing for ConVirt Enterprise 3 starts at $1,495 per host for up to 10 hosts, with volume discounts available. Factoring in the license costs for an enterprise Linux distribution, a ConVirt solution comes with a significant cost-savings. ConVirt supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS, with support for Ubuntu and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on the way.
However, ConVirt Enterprise is definitely rougher around the edges than vSphere; for one thing, support for multiple-host operating systems and hypervisors results in a less tightly integrated system, with more under-the-hood tweaks required than a vSphere plus vCenter match-up.
The cloud-building functionality in ConVirt Enterprise Cloud is simpler to configure, particularly with third-party clouds, which requires little more than entering one's cloud service credentials to get up and running. With that said, my tests of the cloud features weren't without snags, either. For instance, I hit an issue (a known bug, according to Convirture) getting OpenStack templates I created after configuring my OpenStack cloud to show up in the ConVirt VM templates list.
ConVirt Enterprise Cloud is sold on a yearly subscription basis, and the price is keyed to the number of sockets used in an organization's on-premises infrastructure. The price starts at $487 per socket for up to 20 sockets, with discounts for larger numbers of sockets. At this point, use of EC2 in the Enterprise Cloud product does not carry any additional costs.
In addition to its Enterprise editions, ConVirt 3.0 is available in a freely downloadable, open-source version, which lacks the high availability, backup, storage and networking automation, and cloud management functionality included in the Enterprise editions of the product.