The 'Virtualization Wars' Heat Up
May 20, 2009
Remember the Unix wars of 20 years ago? When it began back in the mid-1980s, it seemed all too clear which operating systems would lead the the computing world into the 21st Century. After all, the University of California, Berkeley was behind BSD, and AT&T backed System V.
Today, BSD still manages the occasional toot, but when was the last time you heard from someone running System V?
In fact, this decade, as x86 virtualization has picked up steam, it's become less about the OS, and more about the virtualization environment: the hypervisor and beyond. And, as the market continues to come to a boil, it's become increasingly clear, especially in recent months, that the technology may be turning into this decade's equivalent battleground minus the zealots, who may or may not arrive to fan the flames.
There are, of course, key differences (e.g., environments can coexist and there is no inherent intent of collaboration), but the striking similarity is that both represent a paradigm shift in the architecture of the underlying computing infrastructure.
Schorschi Decker, editor-at-large of ToutVirtual's "A proper virtual World" blog, recently offered some insight and predictions about the future of the virtual landscape in a blog post titled, "Retrospective, What is New is Old?" The entire entry is worth a read, but here's what he had to say about today's leading environments:
About VMware, he notes:
... VMware just costs way to much. This view of mine was reinforced in a recent meeting with VMware, where the discussion of VMware feature set, and the associated pricing became, well, to be fair, enthusiastic to be sure. It was professional, it was honest, and it was quite clear, that VMware was not hearing us. VMware has for the last 5 or 6 years, continued to add features, failed to enhance existing features in reference to scale and scope, for enterprise clients.
In the post, he doesn't weigh in on Oracle, which is rapidly positioning itself to be a major virtualization player. In mid-April, Oracle revealed plans to acquire Sun Microsystems. Last week it announced its intent to purchase Virtual Iron. Even before that, Oracle was setting itself up to be a major player. It is, however, too early to call what exactly that role will be.
My prediction for the the "virtual wars" is the following:
If we're using the Unix wars as a model, a fourth prediction comes to mind: Not every player has emerged at this time. Perhaps the biggest impact of the Unix wars was the advent of Linux, which was born of a grad school project in 1991 and began taking off in earnest mid-decade. Eventually, Linux matured to the point of being a Unix replacement in all but the most compute-intensive environments.
Linux, however, is not really Unix, which is to say that the virtualization "killer app" may not be anything like the virtualization environment as we know it.
Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is coauthoring a book about virtualization that is scheduled for publication in October 2009.