Virtual Iron, XenSource Nibble at VMware

Projects such as Xen and OpenVZ bring the open-source community to the forefront of the issue.

Virtualization vendors will be aggressively courting the open-source community at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo this week in Boston.

For several years, VMware was the only real game in town when it came to x86 virtualization. However, with more enterprises realizing the benefits of virtualization—from running multiple workloads on a single physical server to reduce power, cooling and real estate costs—more players are jumping in, including those in the open-source community.

The result has been projects such as Xen and OpenVZ, both designed to grow open-source virtualization in the same manner as Linux.

"Virtualization on the server is pretty hot, but up until now it was pretty much controlled by VMware in the x86 space," said Matthew Eastwood, an analyst with IDC, in Framingham, Mass. "A lot of people are interested in seeing Xen in the market and seeing what it can do."

Both Virtual Iron and XenSource are planning to rely on Xen 3.0 as their key to competing with VMware going forward, and will outline future plans at the show.

Meanwhile, VMware will announce plans to release key parts of its technology to the open-source community, and SWsoft will not only unveil its latest commercial product, but also update the work of the OpenVZ project it sponsors.

Virtualization enables users to run multiple workloads and multiple operating systems on a single physical server through the use of virtual machines.

Industry players are seeing a strong trend in adoption of the technology. VMware officials say that 90 percent of its 20,000 enterprise server customers are using the technology in production environments, and IDC predicts a $15 billion virtualization market by 2009.

VMware, of Mountain View, Calif., this week will release to the open-source community its core virtual machine format and specification, a key technology in the manipulating and patching virtual environments, said Dan Chu, senior director of developer and ISV products.

"We want to change the landscape, where people can innovate" around VMwares virtualization technology, Chu said.

VMwares virtual machine specification includes virtual disks, which are the containers for the disks that operating systems see and use in running a virtual machine.

They can be stored on local or networked storage, or as files on host operating systems.

By having interoperable formats for virtual disks, users will be able to keep the configurations of their virtual machines as they move between vendor offerings, and enable software makers to create software that works with any virtualization product.

Essentially, it lets any developer or ISV to build on top of VMwares solutions, and many—including BMC and Symantec—already are leveraging the specification, Chu said.

Some members of the open-source community say the moves by VMware are just the latest by the company to court them, due in part by the rise of such technologies as Xen.

However, VMware officials—who over the past few months have released two products free-of-charge designed to introduce businesses to virtualization—say they have been working with the open-source community since the companys inception almost nine years ago.

"Weve always worked quite well with the open-source community," VMware President Diane Greene said in an interview.

"In fact, when we first launched our workstation in 1999, it was Workstation for Linux. … I think maybe what theyre seeing is that the open-source community has gotten a lot more interested in virtualization and were there to work with them and embrace that, so theres a lot more points of contact and cooperation because theyve ramped up their own interest in virtualization."

The Xen project has gotten much more attention in recent months since the release late last year of Version 3.0, which proponents say is the first real enterprise-ready version.

Next Page: New versions, combinations.