It's a Virtualization Jamboree!

It's been a wild week in the virtualization market! Let's recap:

  • Microsoft announced that it would give away Virtual PC 2004 software as a free download
  • Microsoft completed its acquisition of Softricity Inc. , a provider of application virtualization and streaming technologies
  • The Redmond software maker disclosed plans to begin working with open-source virtualization vendor XenSource .
  • On the same day Microsoft announced its XenSource agreement, Novell officially released the SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 operating system, which includes Xen-based virtualization technology.
  • IBM announced that it would support that OS on its hardware and its middleware. Big Blue will support the Xen technology as part of its Virtualization Engine software on BladeCenter blade servers, as well as the servers based on x86 chips from Intel and AMD
  • VMware announce that it would be giving away its VMware Server.
  • Even Apple is getting into the act: the company may start selling Parallels’ virtualization software in their retail stores. The competition is definitely heating up among a range of vendors determined not to be left out of the virtualization race.

Everyone wants this technology now. Server consolidation was the initial driver, but once the server farm is turned into a more or less seamless pool, storage and network consolidation just sort of cry out for consideration. And developers want it to test their applications on a wide variety of OSes.

And yet what's happening here is really more of an evolutionary surge than a competitive lunge. And those who have suggested that the influence of the new market pioneer, VMware, is flagging probably have it wrong. Why? Because, as analyst Neil Macehiter pointed out to me earlier this week, VMware is nimbly climbing the stack.

''I could see VMware's influence waning in this market if they weren't moving up the stack and focusing on what I believe to be the real value and vendor differentiator: the management layer,'' he says. ''The challenge for the company, of course, is that they then encounter the likes of BMC, CA, H-P , and IBM, and the fact that virtualization is only one component of the overall data center infrastructure which needs to be managed.''

I also heard from VMware's VP of platform products Raghu Raghuram, who had a few things to say about Microsoft's XenSouce announcement. “This is a one-way arrangement where Microsoft will allow Linux to run on future Microsoft hypervisors through translated calls to the hypervisor when Windows is controlling the hardware, but not the other way around,'' he observed in an email. ''Under this arrangement, Longhorn 'enlightenments' will not be ported or licensed to run on a Xen hypervisor.''

Raghuram believes that, to achieve true interoperability and provide real choice, users will need to run their operating systems, including Linux distributions, on hypervisors that use open standards, without the encumbrance of license lock-in to proprietary interfaces.

''VMware is actively working with the Linux kernel community to develop an open interface so that the Linux kernel can run natively and efficiently on a choice of hypervisors,'' he added. ''This interface would also be available to any operating system.''

He also noted that that Microsoft's announcement is being made about a hypervisor that won't be available for about two years, while the Linux hypervisor interfaces are still being discussed in the community.

There's more on VMware's view of the Redmond virtualization strategy in a recent corporate blog post by VP of products and alliances Brian Byn. ###

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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