Despite all the praise and glory that virtualization has received over the past year, the leading vendors of the technology face a rather serious problem as the new year unfolds: application support.
As this article in Computerworld points out, most licensing agreements by major developers either restrict the use of their software on virtual machines outright or make the practice so expensive it's unworkable. There's also the matter that without formal support for a given virtualization platform, applications simply won't function properly, leaving the user to battle it out with the various application, virtualization or OS vendor for relief.
The industry is starting to address this issue, however. Witness VMware's recent agreement with SAP in which the latter has extended full support for the ESX Server in 64-bit Windows and Linux environments.
But VMware and other independent virtualization providers face another challenge: major software vendors building hypervisors directly into their platforms. Microsoft recently surprised the industry with the early beta of its Hyper-V (formerly Viridian) platform that most certainly will become part and parcel to the company's operating system. Oracle is also making noise with its Oracle VM, based on the Xen hypervisor.
The question for many users is why they should bother loading an independent virtualization layer from VMware, Xen, Virtual Iron or anyone else if the technology is going to show up one way or the other in the course of routine application and OS upgrades.
Many enterprise executives no doubt will struggle with the issue as they seek to tap into all of virtualization's benefits. And in that light, it would seem that the faster the virtualization vendors ingratiate themselves into the application and OS platforms out there, the better off they'll be.