An announcement from SWsoft just came to my attention. The company is offering a very simple way for small or medium sized organizations to deploy operating system partitioning or virtualization. It appears that the good folks over at SWsoft have thought long and hard about this and have come up with a new way to acquire Virtuozzo, SWsoft's operating system partitioning software. SWsoft is calling this new package the Virtuozzo Starter Pack.
Virtuozzo is not a virtual machine solution. It is something much closer to a partitioned operating system. It is more like Solaris Zones or AIX Logial Partitions (LPARs) than a virtual machine solution from VMware. SWsoft calls Virtuozzo an "OS virtualization solution." Virtuozzo creates isolated partitions on a single physical machine and operating system. Applications can then be made to consume only a subset of the resources of that machine. Many of these virtual environments (VE) can be running on the same physical machine without interfering with one another.
This approach is different than encapsulating several whole stacks of software (operating system, data management software, application framework software, and application software) and using a hypervisor to juggle everything on a single machine. Only one operating system is in use so, a smaller, less expensive machine can be made to do the work. The benefit of this approach is that it would be much faster to switch from one "partition" or VE to another than switching from a virtual machine to another. A challenge to this approach is that all of the VEs hosted on the same machine must be running under the same operating environment. So, if the organizational requirements were to host Windows, Linux and Unix on a single machine, they'd be best advised to look for a different solution. On the other hand, if that organization wanted to centralize all of their Windows or Linux solutions onto its own single physical machine, SWsoft's approach makes a great deal of sense.
Although Virtuozzo has the capabilities to support hundreds of virtual environments or partitions on a single machine, the Virtuozzo Starter Pack is limited to supporting up to four environments and running on a single or dual processor machine. This seems to be about the right configuration for an organization just starting out or for distributed sites of a larger organization.
Virtuozzo Starter Pack is directly addressing one of the biggest challenges facing organizations that want to adopt some form of virtualiztion to improve the efficiency of their IT infrastructure, that is complexity. Although suppliers of any type of virtualiztion technology claim that they're offering simplicity, a serious level of complexity lurks just beneath the surface. If the organizational requirements for virtualization are even slightly different than the vendor's "norm", the complexity leaps to the surface, waves at everyone and then makes itself at home. You just know that can't be good. No one wants a guest that will wake up, walk over to the "IT refrigerator" and feast on what it finds there.
If I understand the SWsoft announcement correctly, the strengths of this package are that it is both easy to install and comes with tools that help the IT staff abstract a physical environment and make it virtual. It offers management tools making it easy for newcomers to virtualization to see and understand what's happening. Furthermore, it appears that SWsoft understands that medium size organizations are unlikely to be willing to pay a great deal of money the first time they try this type of virtualization.
Would the greater performance and lower cost hardware of the SWsoft Virtuozzo environment out weigh the fact that it is a single-operating-system-at-a-time environment in your organization?