A Few Sparks of Open-Source Virtualization

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Seven Best Practices for Virtualization

Virtualization is taking IT to new horizons from which whole new sets of opportunities are coming into view.

VMware dominates the virtualization market and is likely to do so for some time. Why, then, does an intrepid band of tech firms continue to put stock in open-source technology?

Perhaps it's because we've seen this battle before. Microsoft's dominance of the OS market led to the rise of Linux, which has managed to stick around for quite a while, having drawn a devoted cadre of followers who are more than willing to put in extra hours working out integration bugs and other issues.

These days, though, open source virtualization seems driven more by a vendor-style demand push rather than a groundswell of clamoring users. The Open Virtualization Alliance, founded by Red Hat, just topped 200 members with the addition of CA Technologies, DataStax and Jaspersoft. Marching orders for the group center around building a lower-cost, yet more innovative, alternative to VMware.

It's telling that since the group was founded last May, proprietary platforms from VMware, Microsoft and Citrix actually gained ground in the enterprise, according to InformationWeek's Charles Babcock. Citrix is said to be nominally open, although not to the extent of Red Hat's KVM hypervisor built directly into the Linux kernel. This is probably why the latter has drawn such strong support from former Citrix-leaners like IBM. Still, even HP Chairman Ray Lane admits that KVM is still a "dark horse" option in the choice of hypervisors these days.

That's probably part of the reason Red Hat has been so eagerly touting its oVirt Project designed to rally support around its RHEV-M management stack. The company has released RHEV-M code to oVirt members using an Apache Software Foundation (ASF) license, and it is betting on broad support to hopefully push back some of the momentum VMware has gained so far. Note, however, that Red Hat has not fully embraced RackSpace's OpenStack platform, which seeks to extend open virtual platforms into the cloud.

In the HPC sphere, open source seems to be one of the driving forces behind the push to new cloud architectures. Erlang Solutions and Massive Solutions are on the verge of releasing a new virtual supercomputer (VSC) that will allow multiple users to pool open-source resources on the cloud. The companies are uniting their Clusterx and Xpandrx operating systems, providing a hardware-independent middleware layer that supports all Linux distributions as well as Windows HPC Server.

Despite nearly 10 years in the field, virtualization is still a newcomer to the IT industry. As such, most users have not yet garnered the technical expertise to venture from the safety and security of a proprietary system to the Wild West of open source.

It's tough to say when IT will reach that point exactly, but there are a lot of deep pockets out there who are betting that it won't be long.

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