Virtually Speaking: Double Feature Stars IDC and Open Source

Amy Newman
Are virtual systems rising at the expense of physical boxes? IDC believes so — if you're counting the boxes. Meanwhile, virtualization has come to open source and enterprises are biting.

Miss a week and the world undergoes a virtual transformation. Well, IDC stats go public and have everyone buzzing at any rate.

Because Virtually Speaking didn't appear last week, this week we offer a double feature that opens with market projections and closes with open source virtualization trends.

First up, IDC released its latest report on virtualization penetration. There was little to be surprised about, but there was a lot to talk about.

In short, virtualization is moving along at a more rapid clip than the research firm imagined when it came out with its previous projections, so it's adjusting its numbers. The new figures forecast that the number of virtual servers will rise to more than 1.7 million physical servers by 2010, resulting in 7.9 million logical servers. This will represent 14.6 percent of all physical servers in 2010, up from 4.5 percent in 2005.

This is bad news for hardware vendors, as server sales have already begun to stagnate — for units shipped at any rate (dollar sales for 2006 were up). In its revised forecast, IDC now anticipates server sales will grow by 39 percent by 2010 instead of a 61 percent increase in server shipments it had predicted.

During this time, IDC also sees the x86-based server market dollars shrinking by 9 percent, from $36 billion to $33 billion, and actual unit sales declining 18 percent, from 10.5 million servers to 8.7 million servers.

Before you weep for the HPs and IBMs of the world, bear in mind that (aside from the fact that these are only projections, not hard sales figures), many of the systems out there will need to be upgraded to run virtualized environments the way enterprises need them to be run.

As Nick van der Zweep, director of virtualization and integrity server software for HP, told ServerWatch, "For anything older than two years, new equipment must be purchased [for virtualization to be deliver optimal benefits]." Newer systems, he said accommodate larger memory loads, which is vital to virtualization.

He also notes that from what he's seen, "An application upgrade or new application generally sparks a virtualization effort, at which point a hardware purchase is not uncommon, largely for memory reasons."

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It also stands to reason that as virtualization becomes more and more of an assumption, the OEMs will tweak their servers accordingly to maximize their suitability for virtualization. This is already evident with multicore processors.

Enterprises may buy fewer servers, but the servers they will buy will be more expensive and larger, and that may down the road redefine what makes for a commodity server.

Open Source Options Grow

Shifting gears a bit ...

Open source virtualization options are on the rise. While Xen has long held court as the media darling, it's not alone anymore. SWsoft, the force behind the OpenVZ project, which is now the basis for Virtuozzo increased its stronghold. (Virtuozzo competes with VMware, despite taking a different approach to virtualization.)

And in related news on Monday, Qlusters announced an increase in its virtualization capabilities and Xen support for openQRM, its open source data center provisioning and management software for physical and virtual environments.

The open source license is pretty much where the similarities end, however.

openQRM is licensed under the Mozilla Public License and is designed to integrate with Xen and VMware, while OpenVZ is developing the environment itself.

"The philosophy behind the Qlusters architecture is that it is open and can integrate with components already there," Ofer Shoshan, founder and CEO of Qlusters, told ServerWatch.

As such, the latest release of openQRM is designed to enable administrators to change the memory consumption of a Xen partition on-the-fly while making it possible to add, remove and assign virtual machines to specific physical units on the host without restarting the system.

Other changes include the capability to migrate a partition from a small Xen-host to a larger one, to add or remove additional network cards for partitions and configure whichever physical network card on the Xen host traffic should be routed, and to extend a handed-over Logical Volume Manager (LVM) device from the Xen-host to the partition without restart.

SWsoft, in contrast, carves out an environment all its own. Few vendors have been in the virtualization space as long as SWsoft. Founded in 1999, the company got its start in the hosting provider market at a time when "virtualization" was unrecognized and far from understood. Eight years and many acquisitions later (including, most recently, the popular Parallels Software, which enables users to run windows on a Mac), the company has made inroads in both the hosting provider and enterprise markets.

Today, SWsoft's products for the enterprise include its flagship virtualization platform, Virtuozzo, and multiplatform control panel software, Plesk. For hosting providers, it offers SiteBuilder, HSPcomplete and PEM.

Launched in December 2005, OpenVZ has been from its inception an active online community, as evidenced by user behavior: In January 2006, for example, the OpenVZ Web site had 1 million hits. In February 2007, the project announced it had delivered 50 software updates, and the user community had downloaded more than 2 terabytes of its virtualization software in 2006. Currently, its support forum contains around 10,000 message.

Last year, it unveiled a live migration feature, which enables admins to move virtual servers between physical servers without taking them down.

Last week, OpenVZ was one of many to jump on the Red Hat Enterprise Liunx 5 (RHEL5) bandwagon. The OpenVZ operating system will be available as server virtualization software for the RHEL5 kernel.

It's already available in RHEL4, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 (SLES10) and openSUSE 10.1. In May 2006, Mandriva embedded OpenVZ software directly into its Mandriva Corporate Server 4.0 kernel. Now, OpenVZ software is available as part of Linux distributions that include Debian, Gentoo Linux and ALT Linux Sisyphus as well as the mainstream Linux kernels (2.6.16 and 2.6.18). It also supports servers using x86, x86_64, IA64, Power 64-bit and UltraSPARC T1 CoolThreads processors.

Across the pond at Cebit, SWsoft's announced another deal: Virtuozzo will be bundled with Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 beginning in the second quarter.

SWsoft will take a standard distribution of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and add the Virtuozzo software to deliver one integrated solution to customers. SWsoft will provide the first line of support for the bundle, with Novell acting as a backup for all the unmodified components of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Xen, however, is also included at the kernel level, so in some regards SWsoft's win is primarily a leveling of the playing field. Still, leveling against the market leader is no small feat.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

This article was originally published on Mar 23, 2007
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