Is Apple or Microsoft Taking the Fifth?

There's a fifth spot available on the Open Virtual Alliance's governing members board. Who'll take it is anyone's guess but Microsoft and Apple are potential contenders.

May 17, 2011 is a red-letter day in our virtual world. It's the day that HP, IBM, Intel and Red Hat announced the organization of the Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA). The alliance not only announced its formation but it also announced that its major effort will be to support and advance the kernel-based virtual machine (KVM) virtualization technology. Note that the major players (governing members) on this team are HP, IBM, Intel, and Red Hat. According to the Open Virtualization Alliance bylaws, there can be a fifth member of that exclusive group.

Who will take that highly coveted fifth seat?

In my mind, there are a few requirements for this fifth and final seat. First, the company must have a high profile in the open source community or at least sponsor open source projects as part of its business model. Apple and Microsoft both qualify on that one. Apple was the first major computer company to make open source development and support part of its business strategy. Don't believe me? Check out Apple's open source project list. Microsoft also has a significant investment in open source projects. Don't laugh, dammit, they really do. It's part of their TechNet offering and it's been around for years. It's called Port25 and it's Microsoft's major communications portal (clever) for all things open source.

Second, the company will have to have a lot of money. Both definitely qualify there. Why would the fifth member have to have a lot of money, you ask? Because, so far the OVA hasn't published their fees and dues for membership. I'm thinking it's a pretty exclusive club and any company wanting in on the governing board would have to "Thow down," if you get my drift.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, you have to be a VMware competitor. Microsoft qualifies as that with Hyper-V. Apple really isn't, which makes the case for Microsoft as the fifth governing member more compelling. And, with VMware's inclusion, or potential inclusion, of support for OS X in its upcoming vSphere 5.0, are Apple and VMware forming a relationship? Perish the thought. But, in this crazy, mixed-up tech world, anything could happen.

Finally, the company must have a stake in virtualization. Microsoft has more of one than Apple but both have a future in virtualization. Microsoft's stake is obvious with their Hyper-V product. The problem with Hyper-V is that its adoption is sluggish. It's a decent product but really all other Hypervisors are Linux-based so it might be time to come to terms with that and make Hyper-V a free, open source product and integrate it into Small Business Server.

Apple's virtualization stake is more obscure. Apple has no Hypervisor. Or, does it? There are projects underway to port KVM to FreeBSD, although I haven't kept up with the progress or status of any of them. From the discussion threads I've seen on, there are no plans to port Xen to FreeBSD for Dom0 support. Most folks recommend KVM. Interesting, don't you think? FreeBSD does support "jails," which are filesystem partitions that act like virtual machines. It's the most efficient form of virtualization but using it also means dealing with significant restrictions that I'll save for another post.

Apple is ripe for virtualization and acceptance into the OVA as a governing member might push it over the edge.

I think the OVA is waiting for someone to step forward and claim that final spot. For the other governing members not to find a fifth company up front, makes me wonder if they were at a loss as to whom to ask to fill the spot. They probably considered Microsoft and Apple but decided to leave the spot open to be filled by fate.

Which company do you think should fill the fifth and final spot of the OVA governance board? Should it be Microsoft? How about Apple? Is there another company that you think should step up and claim their place in virtual history? Talk back and let me know.


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