They may compete for customers, but virtualization rock stars Dell, HP, IBM, Microsoft, VMware and XenSource have settled their differences long enough to submit a draft proposing an industry standard format for portable virtual machines to the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF).
The DMTF announced its acceptance of the draft yesterday.
“This is a great effort by these companies to bring forward a draft specification to deploy different kinds of virtual machines and virtual appliances in a secure way,” said Winston Bumpus, DMTF president.
“Right now you can download virtual appliances from lots of places, but some are hypervisor specific, some have hardware requirements. There are all kinds of dependencies. This scenario allows you to download and try an application without doing all of the configuration steps,” Bumpus said.
The proposed format, called the Open Virtual Machine Format (OVF), would package all virtual machines (VMs) with an XML wrapper that would allow all virtualization platforms to safely and efficiently run the VM.
The OVF would also incorporate a security check to ensure that the VM had not been tampered with from the time the image was created to the time of download, and a license check.
“We really envision ISVs being able to encapsulate their products in virtual machines. I’ve been comparing it to an MP3 file — it’s more than just music, there’s metadata in a standardized format. It’s really going to change how software is deployed and distributed,” Bumpus said.
According to Bumpus, the OVF should roll out in the next 6-9 months.
For more information on DMTF and what they do, see SearchDataCenter.com’s article, DMTF tries to SMASH system management costs.
Thin client computing, known as the ability to use use a thin client device to run the RDP or ICA protocols in order to connect to a remote computer, is forging its way back into the enterprise.
A key advancement in the thin client technology is the new ability for the thin client device to process multimedia content locally on the thin client device, said Ken Hertzler, Director of NEC Corp.’s Virtual PC Center. “With the multimedia support, more general purpose PC users can now use a virtual PC with almost the same function and speed as a traditional PC.”
The thin client also offers a ‘green’ solution — “nearly 60% less energy than traditional PCs” and “better enterprise PC data protection,” Hertzler said.
NEC yesterday announced the release of NEC US110 at VMworld 2007. The US110, a Windows CE thin client solution slated to ship in Q4 of 2007, builds on NEC’s Virtual PC Center solution and supports new multimedia formats such as Microsoft WMV/WMA and Adobe Flash, as well as RSA SecureID VPN connections.
“We have co-developed with Server Engines, the new NetClient processor for thin client devices. This device is capable of processing multimedia at the thin client device,” Hertzler said.
NEC uses the thin client to take advantage of virtualization with its Sigma System Center (SSC) management software. SSC makes virtualizing PC sessions, installing updates and performing backups easier, according to Hertzler.
The US110 is available for $449, but the price drops to $349 when purchased with NEC Virtual PC Servers. Virtual PC Server Plus, another newly released product that offers more memory per user, retails for $22,900.
At a press event on Monday, Sept. 10, Microsoft Corp. told reporters that Citrix has agreed to use its Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format as the basis of its virtualization products, including its desktop server and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) connection broker.
That should come as no surprise, since Microsoft and Cisco Systems Inc. are so close and since XenSource Inc., which Citrix recently acquired, already uses VHD as well. But in a later conversation with David Greschler, a Microsoft’s director of virtualization strategy, it became clear that the use of VHD will extend far beyond its desktop server.
You see, Microsoft today ships four broad kinds of virtualization, the company maintains: server virtualization in the form of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, to be followed by Windows Server Virtualization (a technology preview of which will be available by the end of the month); desktop virtualization with Virtual PC; application virtualization with SoftGrid; and last but not least, presentation virtualization in Terminal Services. With XenSource and Ardence application streaming, Citrix too offers four types of virtualization.
Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, released last week, will be the glue that ties these disparate virtualization products together, and as Greschler explained it to me, the common use of VHD enables that.
Greschler also spoke about Microsoft’s internal work to bring virtualization to the forefront of technologists’ consciousness. “When I would say, ‘Virtualization is as big as the Internet,’ people would roll their eyes,” he said. “Educating 70,000 [employees] worldwide is a hard thing to do,” he said, but added that the message has started to sink in. “These days there’s a lot of awareness at Microsoft about the importance of virtualization.”
And the game is far from over, they say, citing some highly dubious IDC numbers on virtualization penetration (less than 5% of servers worldwide are virtualized). The fun, in fact, is just beginning.
At VMworld today, attendees said that VMware needs to lower prices now to defend its position as virtualization market leader. Jan Stafford of SearchServerVirtualization.com reports.
It’s not the VMware ESX cost that’s holding back virtualization, it’s the high cost of networked SAN storage.
VMware’s embedded ESX Server 3i marks a change for virtualization, but how it will impact users is an open question.
Virtualization users’ beloved esxRanger from Vizioncore is no longer; it’s now vRanger. Similarly, esxCharter is vCharter, esxReplicator is vReplicator, esxMigrator is vMigrator and so on.
In fact, the Vizioncore suite is no longer limited to those four afore-mentioned products. Vizioncore is also inheriting software from Invirtus (which like Vizioncore, is also owned by Quest Software), thus expanding the suite to include vOptimizer (formerly Invirtus VM Optimizer), vConverter (Formerly Invirtus Enterprise VM Converter) and vPackager (formerly Invirtus Libra).
The name change, said Vizioncore CEO David Bieneman, reflects the company’s decision to no longer just focus on VMware ESX, but on virtualization in general. “Even though the majority of our product development will be focused on VMware, Invirtus also runs on Virtual Iron and Microsoft platforms, and [the platforms] are easily portable to XenSource,” he said.
As part of its VMworld blitz, Vizioncore also announced its new Vizioncore Alliance Partner Program (VAPP), whose founding members include three storage vendors: EqualLogic, DataCore and Data Domain.
And don’t think that Vizioncore has given up on actual product development. Bieneman said that vRanger is now 50% faster at backing up physical servers and converting them into a VMware format, and that new integration with Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) will help Vizioncore create more reliable backups of VMs running applications like SQL Server and Exchange. Before VSS integration, “backing up VMs via snapshot was only crash-consistent,” he explained, but with mission-critical applications such as these, “you need a better [recovery point objective]” than crash consistency can give.
We just published a list of the finalists for this year’s Best of VMworld Awards.
Hurry over to the VMworld Award landing page to see if your favorite virtualization software made the list.
Check back this coming Wednesday to find out who the Gold winners are, and who we name as a runner up.
Today, XenSource became the first vendor to officially announce support of an embedded hypervisor. Specific independent hardware vendors (IHVs) are not mentioned in the announcement, but I expect that we will all hear more details soon enough. While VMware has been rumored to have something cooking for months, they have yet to make any official announcement about their plans for an embedded hypervisor. Considering that VMworld starts next week, the timing of the XenSource announcement should not be considered coincidental.
So if you believe the VMware rumors and expect them to take a public stance at VMworld, that places two vendors in the embedded hypervisor club. If you think for a second that Microsoft will also not be a member, you’re fooling yourself. Next year, I expect that IHVs will ship an embedded Windows Server Virtualization Service running on the Windows Server 2008 Core OS.
So by the end of 2008, as I see it, three virtualization platforms will be available to ship on server hardware. Organizations deploying SAN-based virtualization solutions will be able to purchase servers with no internal hard disks and a hypervisor that resides in flash memory. To me, the movement to hypervisors that ship on the bare metal may impact how organizations purchase servers in the future. Instead of selecting an OS, they can pre-order a server with an embedded hypervisor.
So based on the XenSource announcement coupled with the fact that VMware and Microsoft embedded hypervisors, in my opinion, are foregone conclusions, we now know of three vendors in the embedded hypervisor club. Club meetings will likely be hosted by HP, IBM, and Dell servers, at a minimum (I’m basing my speculation on server market share). Now the question that we must consider is what will the impact be for virtualization vendors that are not yet in the club. Those vendors include Virtual Iron, Red Hat, and Novell. Membership may not guarantee success, but it sure doesn’t hurt either.
Rumors of an embedded VMware ESX have been circulating for some time, but yesterday, XenSource Inc. beat VMware to the punch with the announcement of an embedded version of its own hypervisor, XenExpress OEM Edition. At under 128K, the hypervisor can be pre-installed by server manufacturers on disk or in flash memory, and will enable IT administrators to run Xen, Microsoft or VMware virtual machines (VMs) out of the box.
John Bara, XenSource vice president of marketing, expects XenExpress OEM Edition to dramatically increase Xen’s footprint in the server marketplace. “By the end of 2008, I expect one-half of the server volume worldwide to have [XenExpress OEM Edition] as an option,” he said, accelerating the penetration of their existing XenExpress by 20X.
Bara said that XenSource is working with “five or six” major server OEMs, and will be making several announcements about their identities in the next 60 days. In the press release, Dell issued a supporting statement, although it did not specifically say it would offer the embedded XenSource hypervisor.
Of course, the embedded XenExpress hypervisor has limited functionality in and of itself. However, it is license-key upgradeable to the full edition of XenEnterprise, complete with XenMotion live migraiton, XenCenter management, resource pooling, and Symantec Storage Foundation integration.
Burton Group Senior analyst Chris Wolf said that the XenExpress OEM Edition news was “some slick PR” on XenSource’s behalf, and that assuming VMware and Microsoft follow suit with embedded hypervisors of their own, showed that “it was changing how the [independent hardware vendors] ship hypervisors.” At the same time, he wondered where all this left the likes of Novell, RedHat and Virtual Iron. “They’re not part of the club right now.”