Linux Virtualization Cries Out for Management Tools

While virtualization is a new technology for the Linux vendors, more work is needed on the management tools front to catch up with market leader VMware.

SAN FRANCISCO—While virtualization has been embraced by Novells SUSE and Red Hat, major hardware and software makers say the leading Linux distributors need to do more on the management tools front to catch-up with industry leader VMware.

Novell has already baked the Xen virtualization technology into its shipping SLES 10 (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) product and Red Hat is on track to do the same with its RHEL 5 (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) by the end of 2006.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Novells SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 platform going global.

"But what is missing today are the tools for this, but you also have to remember that virtualization is a new technology for them," said Judy Chavis, the director of business development for Dell, in an interview at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo here Aug. 15.

Dell currently ships Windows, Red Hat Linux and Novells SUSE Linux with VMwares virtualization technology, as well as Novells SLES 10 with Xen. It will offer customers RHEL 5 with Xen as soon as that ships, she said.

Dell was also seeing strong demand for virtualization solutions from VMware in the test, production and server and storage consolidation space, Chavis said.

While Dell had a strong and successful partnership with VMware "as they are the solution that people can deploy today," Chavis said she was confident that Red Hat and Novell would follow the same track.

"Virtualization is new to this space, and demand and usage will grow as customers become more knowledgeable about the open-source virtualization solutions. We believe there is plenty of room in this market for a number of players to compete, and choice is always good," Chavez said.

VMware president Diane Greene says she agrees with that, telling eWEEK that there is more than enough room in the virtualization space.

She said she also hopes that all the players can work together on the standards front to accelerate the industrys growth.

Clyde Griffin, the engineering manager for Novells virtualization platform team, said the company is committed to providing management tools for virtualization, be these developed in-house or in association with its partners.

The companys initial focus had been on working with partners such as Dell, IBM, HP, Intel, AMD and XenSource to make sure that the Xen virtualization technology included in SLES 10 was robust, stable and ready for deployment, he said.

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"Novell will provide management tools for virtualization and also enable other vendors to do the same by providing foundational components in the distribution. SLES 10 and Xen create a virtualization ecosystem where everyone can add value," Griffin said.

In fact, SWsofts Virtuozzo software, which virtualizes only the operating system layer, will use the LinuxWorld conference to announce Aug. 16 that it will provide the tools to manage virtualized computer resources from VMware, Xen and Windows going forward.

"All future releases of SWsofts Virtuozzo management tools will include support for other virtualization solutions, including VMware virtual servers—giving data center managers unprecedented control of virtualized resources and enabling them to use various virtualization technologies without being tied to a single vendors management tools," Serguei Beloussov, the CEO of SWsoft, told eWEEK.

Support for VMware would be available by the end of 2006, with support for Xen expected early in 2007 once Red Hat ships it as part of RHEL 5, and Windows support after that once it is more clear what Microsofts plans are, he said, adding that pricing for these would be set in fall 2006.

/zimages/4/28571.gifVMware Server 1.0. Why wouldnt you use it? Click here to read more.

But Beloussov agreed that the tools to manage all these different virtualization solutions are not available yet.

"We dont think SUSE is supplying adequate tools at this point, so this has created an opportunity for us to do that, as we know that enterprise customers will be running different virtualization solutions going forward," he said.

Al Gillen, vice president of system software at IDC, in Framingham, Mass., believes that, going forward, the battle will not be around the virtualization layer, as this will be integrated into the operating system and hardware.

Rather, it will be about the managing and provisioning and tracking of all this layered software through its full life cycle, and thats where the biggest competitive and financial battle is likely to come from going forward, he said.

"But the biggest unanswered question is how these multiple operating systems will be managed in a virtualized environment, as well as whether these tools will be integrated into the operating system or offered by third-party vendors," he said.

Raymond Zachary, a senior analyst and open-source practice head at The 451 Group, notes that virtualization is a relatively new area of innovation and the open-source vendors are still playing catch-up to the larger, proprietary ones in this regard.

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