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.
New Versions, Combinations
Virtual Iron this summer will launch Version 3 of its virtualization and management platform, moving it off of its own proprietary hypervisor and onto Xen 3.0.
Officials with the Lowell, Mass., company say the combination of Xen and on-chip virtualization technology from Advanced Micro Devices and Intel—due this year—will enable them to offer a product that gives users the same functionality as VMware technology but at a lower price.
“Theres not an account that VMware hasnt sold into,” said Mike Grandinetti, vice president and chief marketing officer for Virtual Iron.
“Theyre everywhere. But what weve been hearing repeatedly [from customers] is, Boy, Id love to have an alternative.”
Virtual Iron Version 3 will include the Xen hypervisor and the companys virtualization software stack and management capabilities. It will come in three editions—for the open-source community, professionals and enterprise—and initially will be available for beta testing for Linux in July, followed by Microsoft Windows support in September.
XenSource, a Palo Alto, Calif., company founded by the developers of Xen, this summer will roll out XenEnterprise, a packaged offering that includes Xen 3.0, guest installers and tools for migrating workloads from physical to virtual machines.
Like Virtual Irons offering, XenSource also will take advantage of hardware-based virtualization from AMD and Intel to enable multiple operating systems—including Linux and Microsofts Windows—to run on the Xen virtual machines, and support both 32- and 64-bit environments, said CTO Simon Crosby.
Last fall, XenSource had put another management product, XenOptimizer, out for beta testing.
However, testers said they were more interested in a product that would offer them the Xen hypervisor and basic management tools, and enable them to use the management software they already had from the like of IBM and Hewlett-Packard, Crosby said. Given that, XenSource dropped XenOptimizer and developed XenEnterprise instead.
SWsoft, of Herndon, Va., will announce that the OS-level virtualization software from the OpenVZ project is available for the open-source Fedora Core 5.
That will come a month after the project announced the availability of the OpenVZ OS on the newest kernel from Novells SUSE Linux unit and on the 2.6.16 Linux kernel.
In addition, a feature that enables users to move virtual machines from one physical server to another without interruption—dubbed Zero Downtime Migration—will be available for OpenVZ software.
The feature is the same on found in SWsofts commercial virtualization products, said CEO Serguei Beloussov.
He said he believes there will be an ample market for commercial virtualization products even if some software—such as OpenVZ—is available for free.
Businesses—particularly the larger enterprises—will be willing to spend money for the benefits that commercial products bring, such as greater vendor support.
The areas that companies like SWsoft and VMware will have to compete in will be management and support of virtual environments, Beloussov said.
To that end, SWsoft also is announcing is Datacenter Automation Suite, a Web-based offering that enables users to order services—from provisioning and managing virtual machines to requests for server space and assessments of costs—from a single console.
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.