I had a chance to speak with Douglas Johnson, Director of Marketing for the Hosting market for SWsoft about the company's approach to partitioned operating systems, what the company calls "Operating System Virtualization." Thanks for taking so much time discussing SWsoft with me, Doug! During the discussion, Doug spent some time helping me understand, from SWsoft's point of view, how each of the various types of virtual processing technologies fit and why SWsoft's Virtuozzo is doing so well in the hosting market. Here's a quick review of the different types of processing virtualization technologies we discussed.
- High performance computing software - software that allows applications or data to be segmented into units that can be run simultaneously on many machines to reduce the amount of time necessary to execute applications. There are several different communities using this type of software. Some call it "grid computing," some call it "parallel processing, others make references to the marching brooms in the Disney film "Fantasia" and almost everyone calls it fast. This one application to many machines approach is typically found supporting scientific, research, geophysical, weather and content creation applications.
- High availability/clustering software - software that is used to monitor an entire application stack or service. If the application or service slows down or stops completely, a replica of the application or service is started on another machine. This approach is commonly used to support a monolithic function such as a collaborative application or a database management engine.
- Virtual machine software - software that gets beneath and then encapsulates an entire stack of software from the operating system, data management software, middleware and, of course, the applications themselves. This software then allows multiple "capsules" or virtual machines, each running it's own operating system, to run on the same piece of physical hardware. This approach is commonly deployed as part of a server consolidation strategy. Interestingly enough, it might also be used to support client consolidation.
- Partitioned operating systems - this software segments a single operating system so multiple stacks of software can share the same operating system without interfering with one another or even knowing that other stacks or Zones exist. As with virtual machine software, this type of software is often part of a server consolidation strategy. SWsoft's Virtuozzo fits in this last category, a category SWsoft calls operating system virtualization.
Here's a snapshot analysis of using SWsoft's Virtuozzo in the hosting market. It, by the way, would apply equally to organizational data centers as well.
- Strengths - Multiple stacks of software are allowed to coexist on a single physical system in a secure, safe, isolated way without incurring the the overhead (processing time as well as storage and memory usage) of using virtual machine software. This approach simplifies managing software patches, updates, and maintenance. Operating system updates are done once per server instead of once in each virtual machine. Operating system Those are done once and propagated across v Furthermore, switching from one context to another would be a great deal faster than switching from one virtual machine to another.
- Weaknesses - (some would call this a strength) all of the stacks of software running on a single physical machine must run under a single operating system. This approach doesn't really lend itself well to hosting several operating systems on a single physical system. So, an organization wanting to host multiple Linux and Windows application stacks would have to host the Windows applications on one machine and the Linux applications on another.
- Opportunities - Hosting companies and medium to large organizations that want to consolidate workloads onto a smaller number of servers to increase server utilization while reducing the ongoing costs of administration and operations are all candidates for this technology.
- Threats - In a market in which the word "virtualization" means different things to different people, SWsoft can expect competition from the virtual machine suppliers. This includes Microsoft, VMware and XenSource. This means SWsoft will have to be very clever in order to get its messages out over the noise these players are making in the market.
Organizations who are looking for the most efficient way to increase system utilization or create a multi-tenant environment on a single physical system would find SWsoft's Virtuozzo very interesting. I recommend that its capabilities be carefully considered before organizations embark on a project to use virtualization technology to consolidate workloads.