About benchmarking

As far as I know, VMware still does not allow 3rd parties to benchmark their product. Fortunately, VMware has benchmarked their own product and made the results publicly available. Here (http://blogs.vmware.com/performance/2007/02/a_performance_c.html) and here (http://www.vmware.com/pdf/hypervisor_performance.pdf) you can find a comparison of VMware ESX and Xen.

I applaud VMware for publishing industry-first comparative virtualization benchmark. Here are my comments that I hope will help VMware to make the comparison more accurate:

·         Take the latest version of Xen – Xen 3.0.4 has been around for a while.

·         Include Linux guests. Xen has never claimed any decent support for Windows. As all of virtualization-savvy people know, under Xen approach (para-virtualization), achieving maximum performance would require modifying source code of Windows, which only Microsoft can do. The only version of Xen that is supposed to provide decent Windows performance is Xen Enterprise 3.1 running on VT-enabled CPUs.

·         Use Xen Enterprise on VT-enabled hardware. It is Xen Enterprise (not the open source version) and ESX (not VMware Server or Workstation or Player) that are positioned for enterprise workloads.

·         Use multiple guests and Virtual SMP. The paper says that Xen could not boot SMP Windows and it was not possible to run multiple guests under Xen. Well, I’m sure if Xen Enterprise was used, some of the problems would go away. I’m also sure that they could call Xen tech support and ask for help J.

·         Limit the “performance comparison of the hypervisors” to performance (not features or manageability) and hypervisors (the lowest-level components in V-stack). It may be true that Xen suffers from “the lack of such RAS, scalability, management, and distributed virtualization capabilities”, but it’s not really relevant to the subject of the paper.

·         Add Virtuozzo to the pack? There is nothing in the workloads that would prevent running ESX against Virtuozzo. I’m quite sure that both multiple guests and SMP guests would workJ

The very last question I have – if I run the very same tests myself on ESX and then Virtuozzo and Parallels – will VMware allow me to post the results?

SWsoft - Parallels relationship unveiled

Many of you have probably seen the article in Fortune magazine — http://money.cnn.com/2007/01/19/technology/fastforward_parallels.fortune/index.htm?postversion=2007012206 — about SWsoft and Parallels. I would like to make few comments about this:

·         With Parallels server products coming soon, SWsoft now provides a full range of server virtualization products. SWsoft customers don’t have to make a hard choice between hardware and OS virtualization. They can have both, and from the same vendor. SWsoft/Parallels is the only company in the world to provide a complete suite of virtualization software across Windows, Linux and MacOS.

·         We have always believed – and I blogged about it – that hardware and OS virtualization technologies complement each rather than compete. We don’t see Parallels product line competing with Virtuozzo or with VMware. We believe that Virtuozzo is the best technology for large-scale production installations – such as enterprise and service provider data centers – where it successfully competes with VMware. Parallels is better suited for small business and departmental applications, where flexibility and ease of use are more important that ultimate performance and density.

·         We are working on making Parallels and Virtuozzo interoperate and integrate with each other so that they can be a part of one solution, rather than two separate technologies. It’s a bit too early for technical details, but for starters, Virtuozzo Tools will support Parallels products

·         Even though Parallels is owned by SWsoft, they will remain different companies – different brands, different web sites – for quite a while. For example, SWsoft will continue using the recently introduced “red-and-white” branding and you’ll still find Parallels people at conferences in those crazy orange shirts.

How do you feel about this?

Comparing Isolation in Hardware and OS Virtualization

In our recent discussions with customers and analysts, the question of isolation has come up again. The reason is that whenever an article in the press needs a one-sentence explanation of OS virtualization it is something like ’OS virtualization provides better density and performance but cannot run different operating systems simultaneously and does not provide as much isolation between partitions as hardware virtualization technologies such as Xen or VMware.’ The two “not” statements require some clarification.

The statement about different operating systems is generally correct, but one needs to understand that Virtuozzo can run different Linux distributions – such as Red Hat, SuSE and Debian - as long as they use the same kernel.

The issue of isolation requires a more detailed explanation. There are several aspects of isolation:

·         Namespace isolation - Each partition provides a complete virtual copy of the entire system namespace – file system, registry, processes, users, IP addresses, port numbers, routing table, etc. Virtuozzo fully virtualizes all system namespaces and provides the same level of isolation as hardware virtualization.

·         Functional isolation - Each partition and the applications it hosts can be configured independently from other partitions and applications. Each Virtuozzo partition has a complete OS environment in it and provides the same level of isolation as hardware virtualization technology.

·         Fault isolation - A fault in one partition does not affect others. Here, hardware virtualization has a theoretical advantage – a fault in the OS would crash all virtual environments on a given machine, although an OS crash in one virtual machine would leave other VMs intact. In practice, though, more than 90% of OS crashes are related to hardware drivers, which always run in the host partition – the one that manages the physical hardware. So, when the driver crashes, the entire machine goes down regardless of which virtualization technology is used.

·         Performance isolation - A partition cannot monopolize resources of the entire machine and hamper performance of other partitions, yet will receive resources required for its execution. Here, Virtuozzo has an advantage over existing hardware technologies because it provides much more granular control of, and intelligent policies for, allocation of system resources.

·         Security isolation - A partition cannot breach security of other partitions, even if its own security was compromised. Each partition has an independent set of local users, including the administrative account. Because of the reasons mentioned above, Virtuozzo is at least as good as hardware virtualization.

However good these logical conclusions are, the best argument is experience. As of now, there are over 500,000 Virtuozzo virtual environments out there running on the public networks, without firewall protection, typically with about a hundred virtual environments on a single machine. In my opinion, these numbers speak for themselves.

What do you think?

Virtuozzo gets praised by analysts

First, IDC (http://www.swsoft.com/en/news/id,11213) recognized Virtuozzo as the fastest-growing among all vendors — 98 percent — in the super hot server virtualization market.

Now, Gartner Group, in the report “Predicts 2007: Brace Yourself for the Next Wave of Server Technology,” says:

“By 2010, mainstream virtualization technology will embrace I/O virtualization, breaking the traditional bonds between physical servers, network switches and storage area network (SAN) switches; by 2010, shared operating system (OS) virtualization will become mainstream.”

You can read the news release (http://www.swsoft.com/en/news/id,11527) and go here (http://www.swsoft.com/en/virtuozzo/gartnerreport06/) to view the Gartner Group report.

Vote for Virtuozzo

We encourage everyone to go to Enterprise Open Source Magazine (http://linux.sys-con.com/general/readerschoice.htm) to participate in the Reader’s Choice awards. There are about a dozen categories that include Best Virtualization Solution, Best Open Source Product, and Best Linux Distribution. It will take you about 10 minutes to register and vote and you’ll also be qualified to receive Enterprise Open Source Magazine. Virtuozzo is included in the Best Virtualization Solution category and the OpenVZ project is listed in the Best Open Source category. This awards competition reflects the input of users, so go to the site to make sure your voice is heard.

Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas!

Which OS will matter?

A few weeks ago, TechTarget‘s Server Virtualization published this interview with Diane Greene titled “The operating system should not matter”. After reading it there is very little doubt that VMware has decided to take on Microsoft and provide an alternative platform. This Infoworld article simply calls VMware an OS – The lab is built mainly on three OSes. Four, if you count VMware.

Personally, I think that this hill is too steep for VMware. Here are a few thoughts on this:

1.    VMware is a very serious threat to the currently dominant Windows and Linux platforms. By introducing a virtualization dimension, VMware has been able to clearly articulate the value proposition for its platform without having to compete with Windows or Linux feature-by-feature.

2.    VMware will try to take over hardware resource management and infrastructure services provided by the OS – CPU scheduling, memory management, perhaps even the file system. Then, VMware will try to introduce some proprietary APIs that provide access to advanced features and ensure that customers are locked-in to the VMware platform.

3.    However, the value of the OS as a platform is much more than a hardware resource manager and basic system services – it includes middleware, support from ISVs and OEMs. In short, there is a huge ecosystem around the current platform and it’ll be very hard to build another one.

4.    Microsoft and Linux vendors must win - they have no other choice. To do so, they need to change the game back on VMware and embrace the entire spectrum of virtualization technologies – hardware, OS-level, application-level and integrate them into their platforms so that customers can use whatever technology is best for them, instead of trying to stretch VMware to solve all problems.

Share your thoughts with me!

VMware to start new OS war

I believe it is now obvious that VMware is trying to become an OS vendor, or a platform vendor — if you think that OS has a too narrow definition. Here is why:
1.    Virtual appliances — With virtual appliances, VMware is sending a clear message to ISVs — you develop for, run on, deploy on and service your applications on VMware – not on Windows or Linux. The OS is just a library or at best a middleware like Java or .NET, but not really a resource manager, which was always considered a primary OS function and value. And we all know that tools and libraries vendors never enjoyed nearly as much success as platform vendors. Moreover, VMware created its Virtual Appliance certification program, similar to application certification programs available from any OS vendor.
2.    Hardware alliances — VMware is striking partnerships with hardware OEMs like HP and IBM. Again, much like OS vendors, VMware is certifying computer hardware for compatibility with VMware. You can now buy an HP or IBM server with only VMware ESX and no other OS installed – not even Linux or Windows.
3.    Advanced OS features — VMware is including more and more sophisticated management and core features into its products, often way ahead of general-purpose OS vendors. For example, VMware already does CPU scheduling, memory management, storage management with its proprietary file system, network management, QoS management. With Virtual Infrastructure 3, VMware has added an array of very advanced management features including Distributed Resource Scheduling, High Availability, Consolidated Backup and a few more — features that OS vendors have been slow to develop but very appreciated by IT departments. Also, VMware has started to create its own data formats (Virtual Disk) and Management APIs — a clear attempt to establish VMware as a platform, not just a transparent system management middleware.
VMware is up for the big fight. Microsoft and Linux won’t give up easily, and even technically, it’s very hard to remove value from these two prevalent platforms, each with many thousands of APIs used by millions of software developers. On the other hand, Microsoft and Linux companies do recognize this threat. Why else would such a bitter foes like Microsoft and Novell make any sort of virtualization-related strategic pact? They know that despite the thousands of APIs and millions of developers, they, in all likelihood, won’t be able to beat VMware in its own game. Trying to catch up with VMware in hardware virtualization technology and tools is mission impossible – VMware is at least 3 years ahead of any competitor, and the gap is not shrinking.
This new OS war will have negative effect on almost everyone. ISVs will have to learn a new platform and change the way they develop applications. Users and IT professionals will be confused until the battle is over and they will have to change the way they use and operate computers, too. Virtualization is definitely a paradigm shift, but are all these drastic changes really necessary?
Virtuozzo is an alternative solution. OS virtualization provides the same benefits as hardware virtualization and more. Often, the benefits are delivered in a much more efficient manner. But most importantly, Virtuozzo naturally extends capabilities of existing platforms instead of replacing them, allowing everyone – from users to IT pros to developers – to go through virtualization paradigm shift with little stress.
What do you think is going to happen? Looking forward to your comments.

IBM Launches Virtualization management software

SWsoft CEO Serguei Beloussov

Virtualization continues to make waves in the IT industry. Last week, giants IBM and Microsoft took steps to shore up their position in virtualization.

First, let's look at the IBM announcement on virtual datacenter management.

Is IBM seeking relevance in the fast moving virtualization space? Last week's announcement seems to point to this, but I would argue that to some degree, IBM already has some relevance. After all, virtualization on the mainframe has been around for something like 40 years.

Maybe IBM wants to leverage that history to build some credibility in the x86 server market. Fair enough. Is last week's announcement an attempt by IBM to protect its Tivoli flank against VMWare Virtual Center?

If the answer is yes, this jibes with the notion that core virtualization will become a de facto technology in the datacenter and what really matters to customers is how virtual datacenters are managed.

This is something that SWsoft has been keenly aware of for some time and was the focus of our August 2006 announcement that Version 4.0 of our Virtuozzo software, due early in 2007, will include tools to manage different virtualization technologies in addition to our own. In fact, our multi-vendor management of virtualization goes beyond what IBM is offering since we not only cover hardware-based virtualization such as VMWare and Xen but also OS-based virtualization such as Virtuozzo. In addition, we will extend beyond management to datacenter automation to deliver the broadest range of performance, flexibility and value to our customers, across the entire virtual infrastructure.

Now, to the Microsoft/Novell announcement.

Call me biased, but since I am in the business of virtualization technology, I tend to look at news from the IT world with that perspective. Last week's announcement about Microsoft and Novell partnering is no exception.

Here is my take:

First, I’m happy to report that I am not alone looking at this announcement from this perspective. IDC analyst Vernon Turner says that "There are several key pillars to this announcement, including interoperability initiatives supporting virtualization, the interoperability of system management surrounding virtual servers…"

Microsoft is looking for partners to help them deal with the fact that in an increasingly heterogeneous world, going it alone is not sustainable. We agree. In fact, our own history in the service provider market with Microsoft bears this out. A few years ago, Microsoft had very small market share in the service provider/hosting market. They were completely against heterogeneous tools.

However, as always, Microsoft was able to relatively quickly turn around and partner with SWsoft to provide products and solutions for Windows for hosting customers, which has been a big success for both of us. 

Further, from where I sit, there are two x86 operating systems - Windows and Linux. I might argue that virtualization is becoming a third operating environment. Or, you could say that virtualization and the OS are becoming indistinguishable. That software layer - however it is defined - will be critical to managing tomorrow's virtual infrastructure. And if VMWare is the dominant player, then Microsoft needs to forge relationships that would help it compete in the virtual datacenter.

SWsoft and Microsoft have been working very closely on virtualization, which has proved to be a very viable competitive option to incumbent VMWare, and which we like to think as the next generation of server virtualization. In fact, operating system-level virtualization technology is a perfect complement to Microsoft in its quest to compete in the virtualization space. We welcome Microsoft's announcement. Watch this space for some exciting news in the near future that further proves this point.

Virtuozzo more scalable than ESX Server?

This question is posed here (http://www.virtualization.info/2006/10/virtuozzo-more-scalable-than-esx.html) on virtualization.info with an open invitation to hear from readers about their experience with large implementations of SWsoft Virtuozzo and VMware ESX Server. We encourage our users to contribute and write a comment.

If you follow my blog, you know I’ve said many times that Virtuozzo is a production virtualization technology. When it comes to large-scale production environments -- where density, scalability and performance matter a lot – it makes so much more sense to use OS virtualization like Virtuozzo.

This discussion was stirred up in a separate article (http://www.techworld.com/opsys/news/index.cfm?newsID=7199&pagtype=all) quoting David Turner, manager at IT consulting firm IQ-SYS, saying "we get greater scalability with Virtuozzo" and "VMware is good for test and development, and for consolidation of different servers. But on a greenfield site and Citrix server farms, which are all pretty much the same configuration, you don't have a requirement to support different OSes." Finally, he states, there is “room for both vendor solutions to sit side-by-side in the same organization.”

Microsoft introduces unlimited virtualization


(from our CEO Serguei Beloussov)

We know that the implications of virtualization technology on software licensing are huge. I wrote about this in an opinion column, http://news.com.com/Rethinking+software+licensing/2010-1012_3-6110449.html.

Just recently, Microsoft took a step in the right direction for the users of virtualization technology. In a change effective October 1, Microsoft licensing for the Windows Server 2003 R2 Datacenter edition running on servers with two or more processors are allowed an unlimited number of virtualized servers. As Microsoft notes (http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/evaluation/news/bulletins/datacenterhighavail.mspx), “Unlimited virtualization rights significantly extend the savings customers can realize through server consolidation on the Windows Server platform.”

To quote from a famous phrase that has surfaced in the news again this week, “This is one small step for (a) man and one giant leap for mankind.” We, at SWsoft, applaud what Microsoft has done, which is the best interest of customers. At the same time, it must be noted that there is still much to be done by Microsoft and every software company to clarify licensing for the users of virtualization technology – especially operating system-level virtualization, such as SWsoft Virtuozzo.

With high-performance, highly-efficient Virtuozzo software that offers much greater density per server than other virtualization technologies, this revised Microsoft licensing is particularly good news and of greater value for customers. While the Microsoft move is a good step in the right direction, there is still a need to enable virtualization friendly licensing for Enterprise and Standard Editions of Windows Server.  Further, our customers expected Microsoft to treat virtual environments (VEs) very differently from virtual machines (VMs) since they leverage one Windows instance and not multiple ones.

This issue isn’t going away and given the industry sales for virtualization technology and, in particular, our own at SWsoft this is becoming a more pressing issue every day. We’re encouraging software suppliers to re-think traditional licensing strategies to provide more clarity for users of virtualization technology. We maintain virtualization actually benefits software suppliers because it allows for new usage scenarios and could increase their license revenue – while at the same time decreasing cost per user for their customers.

We encourage customers to check license agreements carefully and negotiate hard with suppliers. We’re at an inflection point as the uptake in virtualization technology increases rapidly with high stakes for software suppliers and users alike.

Serguei Beloussov, CEO


(commentary from me)

To make the long story short, Microsoft vastly simplified virtualization licensing for Windows Server 2003 R2 Datacenter Edition. You can run unlimited number of virtual environments – regardless of the server virtualization technology - yet pay only for a single OS license.

This is good news for VMware users – they don’t have to pay for or track usage of per-VM OS licenses.

And here is why this is also VERY good news for Virtuozzo. People will inevitably start looking at Virtuozzo trying to maximize usage of the “free” Windows licenses.

With “free” licensing, it makes sense to buy a very powerful server – 8+ CPUs, 16+ GB of RAM and try to run as many Windows OS instances on it as possible. And it is the OS virtualization technology (Virtuozzo) – with much greater density, much more efficient application management and much more sophisticated resource management - that really does the best job here. The funny thing also is that unlimited licensing encourages people to create homogeneous environments – why waste any computing power on running Linux on a machine that can run an additional instance of Windows for free? And, if you start moving towards all-Windows machines, you don’t really need Xen or VMware – Virtuozzo will do everything, only cheaper, faster and more efficiently.