The Xen vs. KVM debate is not new, but it has definitely been picking up steam as of late. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 has given Xen the “let’s just be friends” speech and moved in with KVM. Several major hosting providers are switching their platforms from Xen to KVM. And many Linux diehards say Xen is a huge pain to manage.
The battle lines are drawn, and the fate of the open source virtualization market hangs in the balance. (How’s that for overdramatic? I think I’ve been watching too many “Lost” commercials.)
Anyway, the ramifications of this potential shift may also affect the open source OS market. Leading the charge on this side of the battle is Citrix CTO Simon Crosby, the co-founder of XenSource. Red Hat is trying to move customers off Xen, and now he’s trying to move customers off Red Hat.
“If you approach your virtualized world with a Linux/RHEL based mindset, then I recommend you consider switching to Oracle Enterprise Linux,” he blogged last week. “It is a superior, enterprise class version of RHEL. … Alternatively, if you’re wary of giving Larry more control than he already has over your environment, Novell SUSE Linux offers a superb enterprise Linux platform.” (Note that Crosby linked Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s name to a picture of his massive yacht.)
I’ve previously said that Red Hat has nothing to lose by switching from Xen to KVM. I meant that in terms of Red Hat’s standing in the virtualization market. VMware, Microsoft and Citrix are way ahead of Red Hat there. (And as Crosby blogged, “Having failed to capitalize on Xen, Red Hat needs a ‘differentiated’ story in virtualization in order to regain credibility.”)
But Red Hat has a ton to lose in the enterprise Linux server OS market, where it’s the leader. Sure, the Linux community may be in love with KVM, but Red Hat butters its bread thanks to the IT admins and systems engineers who work with RHEL. The company can’t afford to turn off these core customers in its pursuit of the virtualization market.]]>
When you thought about virtualization, you thought about VMware and no one else. That’s changing now, as Microsoft, Citrix and others chip away in the hypervisor market.
And when you thought about VMware, you thought virtualization and nothing else. That too is changing now, as today’s VMforce news shows.
We’ve been hearing it for a while now: VMware doesn’t want to be just a virtualization company anymore. Well, that day is finally here. Still, VMforce has got to mean something for virtualization, right?
At first glance, a lot of people would say no. VMforce is a Java application development and hosting platform, and it’s not really something that admins will come across in their day-to-day duties. As blogger and systems engineer Kendrick Coleman said to me on Twitter this morning, “It means nothing to me because I’m not a developer.”
VMware CEO Paul Maritz shares a different view. He said in this morning’s VMforce press release that VMforce will tie in with the private and hybrid cloud models that many businesses are considering. Sure, the whole part about VMforce being a “dramatically simplified solution for modern application development” isn’t going to excite many admins.
But then there’s the part about applications that “can scale automatically. VMforce customers will not have to worry about scaling up app servers, databases or infrastructure to meet performance demand.” Now we’re cookin’ with virtualization gas!
Scalability is one of the biggest benefits of virtualization. If you want to deploy a new application, you can simply provision a new VM instead of rolling out a whole new physical server. Of course, there are some potential gotchas. If you provision VMs left and right, you can find yourself with a serious case of VM sprawl. And despite workarounds like memory overcommit, you’re still limited to the physical capabilities of your infrastructure.
If you’re an admin who has dealt with these kinds of problems, especially with a lot of your custom apps, don’t ignore the VMforce news. With this Platform as a Service model, the service provider is responsible for meeting your users’ demand — which means you don’t have to worry about provisioning and decommissioning VMs or overloading your servers.
Is VMforce going to change the world for admins? No. But it may be able to help solve some problems. VMware isn’t solely focused on virtualization anymore. We shouldn’t be either.]]>
I used to hate the term “cloud computing” — like, in a “I totally despise this phrase and will go to the ends of the Earth to avoid using it” kind of way. I thought it was another meaningless phrase, ripped from the marketing-ese dictionary to generate hype.
But over time I realized I was fighting a losing battle, and that cloud computing was catching on — not just as a term, but as an actual IT strategy. And as an added bonus, it relies on everyone’s favorite technology, virtualization!
It still seems a little silly to say something is in “the cloud,” like it’s this magical, ethereal place, when it’s really just someone’s else data center (or even your own, if we’re talking about private cloud). But whatever, I can deal with it.
So imagine my dismay when I started reading about today’s Salesforce.com and VMware news, and I saw a new buzzword staring me in the face: “Cloud 2.” I felt like kneeling down, looking up to the heavens as rain poured down, and screaming, “WHY?!?!?!?!?”
Unless you’ve been living in a cave (the opposite of a cloud), you know that Salesforce.com and VMware announced VMforce today. Basically, VMforce is a Java development platform, hosted in the cloud. The major components are the Spring platform, which VMware acquired last year, and Salesforce.com’s Force.com platform. And the goal is to get developers building social, mobile and collaborative applications for businesses and organizations.
These are the so-called “Cloud 2 apps,” as Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff called them in the press release. I understand the companies want to set themselves apart from the rest of the cloud crowd (try saying “cloud crowd” three times fast, by the way), but when you look at it, they’re APPS developed and run in the CLOUD. Let’s just call them “cloud apps” and spare everyone another buzzword.]]>
The good news came from multiple fronts: “pent-up demand” from enterprises, carry-over from the previous quarter, strong results from Europe and Asia including a windfall $8 million dollar enterprise license agreement (ELA), and a successful promotion for the its vSphere Essentials and Essentials Plus bundles, said VMware executives on an earnings call yesterday.
Investors were particularly interested in the questions of ELA renewals and average selling price (ASP).
VMware first started offering ELAs in 2007, and the first of those have started to come up for renewal. In 2007, VMware was the only game in town, but the competition has improved since then. While not providing specific numbers, CEO Paul Maritz said that the company was “gratified by the response for renewing ELAs,” and that “almost without exception ELAs that have come up have renewed.” Furthermore, the renewed ELAs tend to be for larger deployments.
Being able to maintain ASPs, meanwhile, signals to investors that the company is not excessively discounting prices and facing strong competition. And balancing ASPs will be harder for VMware as it deepens its reach in small-to-medium businesses. This quarter, investors were gratified by the fact that ASPs were flat, depsite its Essentials promo. At the same time, since the company does not break out revenue by product category, it is hard to know for certain how much of a material impact low-end SKUs actually had on VMware’s quarter.
However, VMware’s bread and butter remains vSphere and the vCenter family, and not investments in SpringSource, Zimbra, or desktop virtualization, the company admitted. With respects to desktop virtualization, “there’s a lot interest from customers,” said VMware COO Tod Nielsen as they prepare to move to refresh an aging desktop fleet and move to Windows 7. “They want to virtualize at the same time.” At the same time, “when the market is going to tip, we don’t know. Our eyes are on the ball and are making sure we will be there [when it does.]”]]>
FBL Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa has a single VMware ESX host at each of nine branch offices throughout the state but isn’t particularly satisfied with the level of availability that brings them, said Kent Altena, technical engineer for the firm.
“VMware ESX 3.5 is the source of a lot of angst at the state offices, because the single box is a point of risk,” Altena said.
At the same time, “we knew we had to give them something,” Altena said. “We couldn’t just let them sit there.” Altena said.
Despite their reservations, the firm decided that, for the cost, the risk of running a single ESX host was an acceptable solution. But when it comes time to upgrade, Altena said the firm will probably opt to add a second VMware box and leave the old box in there for failover purposes. At the same time, FBL decided to invest in a dual-controller Hewlett-Packard MSA SAN, to provide shared storage for the ESX hosts when the time comes.
Likewise, David Michel isn’t thrilled about virtualization at the four branch offices of Turner Padget, a South Carolina law firm. The issue there is the single point of failure of the Riverbed Steelhead appliances running its Riverbed Service Platform (RSP). But it was cheaper than what they were doing — a single VMware ESX host. Bringing in WAN optimization technology with a Steelhead appliance eliminated the need for a second T1 line required with new VMware hardware. Michel estimated that the Riverbed approach would cost about 60% less over three years and deliver return on investment (ROI) in 8 months.
The high cost of storage and redundancy in the branch is the raison d’etre for VM6 Software, a startup out of Toronto, Canada that offers a turnkey virtualization solution targeted at SMBs and branch offices. Based on Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V R2, the VM6 VMex includes two servers in an active cluster, a virtual SAN made up of locally attached drives, and an integrated management console familiar to Microsoft specialists. In the branch, VMex costs up to 70% less than a comparable VMware-based offering and at least 30% less than comparable physical infrastructure, said Eric Courville, VM6 founder and chief operating officer.
But even though Hyper-V — especially running on Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition — presents some cost savings over VMware, IT managers at existing VMware shops want no part of it.
“Why would I want to learn and support another hypervisor?” asked FBL’s Altena. “If I were already a Hyper-V shop, sure, but why would I want to spend the time and money for training on ESX all over again?”
A first generation version of VM6’s VMex was actually delivered on VMware, but Courville said its target market is more comfortable with Windows than with the Linux-ish ESX. Courville likened existing VMware data centers to Formula 1 race car teams, with expensive, high-performance systems that require the expertise of specialized mechanics to keep them running.
“But what if I can’t afford a Formula 1, but I still need a car to go to work and get my groceries?” Courville said.
The VMex delivers the equivalent of a “commercial car” that meets the needs of the branch office, at a reasonable price, he said.
That said, if market demand proves VM6 wrong, “there’s nothing technically preventing us from going with VMware down the road,” Courville added.]]>