Virtualization Beyond the Big Three


The big three virtualization vendors -- VMware, Microsoft and Citrix -- tend to grab most of the headlines by virtue of their market clout, but the smaller players are keeping busy as well, pursuing key alliances and opening up niche markets that are hungry for more tailored virtual solutions.


Parallels, for one, is leveraging its container virtualization system, originally designed for the Mac, to make a play for Windows, UNIX and Linux environments. The company just signed a deal with HP to bundle its Virtuozzo software into the Itanium-based Integrity server line. The deal turns HP into the main UNIX rival to Sun's Solaris virtualization system, which also relies on a container approach. It also represents Parallel's expansion from a strictly x86 firm to the more powerful Itanium processors.


Parallels is also joining forces with Quest Software to go after the virtual desktop market. The pair has united the Virtuozzo system with Quest's Virtual Access Suite to create the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, said to offer higher consolidation ratios and fewer image management requirements than current solutions. The bundle is intended to lower the cost of virtual desktop environments by allowing higher densities with less hardware and fewer software licenses.


Virtual Iron has been somewhat quieter with its Xen-based hypervisor and management stack, but according to this report on Network World, the company is intent on serving the SMB market while the rest of the industry focuses on the major enterprises. The company is focusing on ease of use and installation, as well as low cost, in addition to lining up the right channels to target the often hard-to-reach SMBs.


The company is lining up key technology partners, such as Quantum, a provider of disk- and tape-based backup and library systems, and 2X, developer of thin client and server-based computing software.


In all likelihood, there will be some consolidation among virtualization vendors as the market evolves. But that doesn't necessarily mean the small firms will be swallowed up by the big guys -- most observers half-expect a Citrix/Microsoft union at some point. But for the moment, enterprises large and small have a number of options when searching for just the right virtual environment.