Regardless of which group is accurate, the reality is that are few vendors in the Intel virtualization sector. The consensus leader is VMware. The other two players are Connectix and, arguably, SWsoft.
Connectix, which now offers virtual PCs and MACs, is planning on entering the virtual server space. The company, which was acquired by Microsoft in February, has its Virtual Server product in beta. At least one analyst thinks Microsoft’s end game is to get its virtualization software into the Windows operating system.
SWsoft’s Virtuozzo server products rely on a master OS from which the virtual images are extracted. If that OS fails, the machines stops functioning. The reliance on a single OS causes analysts to question whether it belongs in the category. “We do not consider it to be a virtual server or use virtual partitions because it doesn’t utilize separate and independent copies of the OS,” says Haff.
The approach SWsoft takes increases scalability, says project manager Jack Zubarev. He adds that other products are not as immune to mass failure as their vendors would like people to think. Each has sofware elements that would take down the entire machine if they fail. While this higher vulnerability area is broader is SWsoft’s architecture, the scalability it enables makes it worthwhile, he says.
Iams suggests that SWsoft belongs in the virtual server discussion, but that its approach is closer to RMS than the two other vendors. Currently, Virtuozzo works in a Linux environment. The company is in the final stages of beta testing a Windows version, according to the company.
VMware, which is five-year-old company, has sold products to about 80 percent of the Fortune 100 companies, Mullany says, though some of the customers only take the company’s workstation product. It offers two server products: The GSX runs on top of existing OSes and the ESX runs natively on hardware.
Each approach has an overhead penalty. Multiple OSes and apps running on one server require more CPU cycles than if they were running on separate machines. The inefficiency is made up for several times over by the ability to consolidate machines, Mullany says.
For instance, he says, the National Gypsum Company has consolidated 20 servers into two, while Circuit City Stores increased average utilization of its servers from about 20 percent to about 60 percent using VMware products.
Virtual servers can be a key element of the drive to rational data centers, experts say. “I think they are pretty hot,” says Haff. “VMware in particular is doing quite well for itself. It provides a lot of benefits, but it isn’t a panacea. It is one type of resource management. As processors continue to get faster it will get more important because individual systems will continue to grow in capacity.”