RFP: OS Virtualization

Procuring the best virtualization solution for your organization involves learning everything possible about the capabilities and requirements of the products under consideration, as well as learning about the products' management functionality, support o

In an effort to trim costs, streamline hardware inventory and boost server utilization, companies are looking to consolidate applications onto fewer machines. Operating system virtualization products—including the full-machine solutions from VMware and application-compartmentalization features of Sun Microsystems Solaris 10—offer a solid path to server consolidation and the reduced management, power and space costs that consolidation enables.

Whats more, these and other virtualization products and technologies can considerably smooth the development, testing and deployment of enterprise applications because moving an application and its entire associated stack from the lab to the data center can be as simple as moving an operating system image file from one virtualization host to another. For the same reasons, virtualization can aid in enterprise backup and failover schemes.

Procuring the best virtualization solution for your organization involves learning everything possible about the capabilities and requirements of the products under consideration, as well as learning about the products management functionality, support options and costs. eWEEK Labs has prepared this list of questions to help IT managers develop their own requests for proposal for OS virtualization products.

For more sample RFPs, go to go.eWEEK.com/rfp.


Getting the most out of hardware investments is what virtualization is all about, so its important to ensure that a virtualization product will match up well with an organizations server hardware. Virtualization options that are built in to an operating system, such as FreeBSDs jails, tend to offer broader hardware options than x86-specific full-machine virtualization products, such as Microsofts Virtual Server 2005 R2. In addition, certain product features may depend on specific processor versions. For example, VMwares 64-bit guest support isnt available with early versions of Advanced Micro Devices Opteron chips and requires the very latest x86-64 chips from Intel.

* Describe the minimum hardware requirements for running your product in a configuration that includes at least two virtualized instances. (State RAM, CPU storage and I/O requirements.)

* Describe the maximum supported hardware configuration.

* Describe the resource requirements of the host system beyond whats required for running guest instances.

* Which processor architectures does the product support? (Check all that apply.)

• x86 • PowerPC

• x86-64 • Other

• Itanium

* Provide a link to an HCL (hardware compatibility list) for your product.

* If your product presents a virtualized hardware environment to guest instances, describe this environment, including processor, I/O and network devices.

* Can the product present multiple physical processors to guest instances? Describe the storage protocols available for guest instances.


Whether virtualization options integrate with a host servers operating system or are layered on top of it, operating system compatibility is an important early checkoff. If the product under consideration supports Linux, for example, which distributions does it support? Its also important to ascertain whether and how well the product supports the guest operating systems and applications an organization wishes to virtualize, as well as to determine if any changes will need to be made to the application before it is deployed.

* If your product requires a host operating system, which host operating systems does the product support?

* Which guest operating systems does the product host? (Check all that apply, and specify versions supported.)

• Microsoft Windows Server • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server

• Red Hat Enterprise Server • Debian GNU/Linux

• Fedora Core Linux • FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD

• Sun Microsystems Solaris • NetWare

* Do guest instances run under their own kernel, or do they share the hosts kernel?

* Do you offer explicit support for particular applications running within guest instances? Which applications?

* Describe the sorts of applications that are not appropriate for hosting within the products virtualized instance.

Next Page: Management, support and cost-benefit analysis.