Barbarians at the VMware Gate

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You certainly can't blame VMware for trying, but having assumed the mantle of virtualization market leader, the company has its hand full keeping others from crashing the party.


The latest entrant into what is likely to be a white-hot market well into the next decade is Qumranet, an Israeli start-up that just came out with the first system, Solid Ice, based on its Kernal-based Virtual Machine (KVM) for Windows and Linux platforms. The company's claim to fame is that by integrating directly into the OS kernel, it can provision literally thousands of virtual desktops that can be hosted and managed from a single control point.


Qumranet has already tapped into the Linux market in a big way, after posting its code to a Linux kernel mailing list and then seeing it integrated into the 2007 community release at a time when developers were looking to capitalize on virtualization technologies emerging on the chip level. Now, it looks like KVM is making its way onto enterprise releases from Novell and Red Hat, much to the chagrin of XenSource.


To counter, VMware has launched the Open Virtual Machine Tools program, aimed at providing Linux developers with guest OS virtualization components and other goodies that hopefully will be integrated into future releases. The company is said to be working closely with Novell, Red Hat and Ubuntu on VMware Tools integration, but nothing definite has been announced.


Meanwhile, on the Mac front, SWsoft, the new owners of Parallels, is coming out with a beta version of the Parallels Server aimed at mid-market customers not yet ready for the OS-level Virtuozzo system for large data centers. Parallels Server is a more traditional virtualization system in that it lets you run multiple operating systems -- 64-bit, no less -- on a single server. Look for multiprocessor virtual machine support in the new version.


VMware's Mac strategy is Fusion 1.1, the newest version of the system that lets you run Windows on MacIntels. In beta, the system offers support for DirectX 9.0 and iPhone connectivity, even for Windows virtual machines. Fusion's Unity feature, which lets you call up Windows applications without actually launching Windows, now provides an interface that causes those apps to look like Mac OS windows.


Of course, Windows is still a large chunk of VMware's target market, but that's where the going may be toughest. Microsoft has finally joined the party with its Viridian system, and based on this account in eWEEK, it appears to be a winner, particularly its smooth interplay with other features found on Windows Server 2008.


But please don't think that I believe VMware is doomed. There are a lot of smart folks over there (billions in fresh IPO money tends to draw top talent), and its technology tends to come out ahead in most surveys and shoot-outs. But since its king of the hill right now, it will have to be pretty nimble to stay there.