Into the zone with VMware?

Full virtualization is great but it has its limitations. If VMware wants to fly into the Cloud, it has to get into the Zone.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

OK, how do you improve the product with the most market share in the virtualization business? Obviously, you ask a guy like Ken Hess to tell you. It's OK. Whether you ask or not isn't important because I'm going to tell you anyway. The important part is that you pay attention and take heed to what's written here on this particular topic: Zones. I want VMware to improve its product line by adding Zones to the mix.

Zones, containers or jails by any other name would be just as sweet. If VMware would add Zones to its already overwhelming market share, it would be untouchable. Forever.


First, let's look at what a Zone is.  A Zone is a secure directory on a filesystem that contains most of a full root filesystem. By referring to a 'root' filesystem, it generally means that the host system is Linux or UNIX. But, it doesn't have to be Linux or UNIX. It could be Windows. Yes, Windows. It's a topic of a separate post but you can create zoned Windows installs too. It's non-trivial to do so but it can be done.

Inside that secure directory, you can run processes, install software, create subdirectories, login, use a separate IP address and do just about anything you want with one exception: You can't run a different operating system. Your zones use the system kernel. So, you can't run a Windows Zone on a Linux host.

This is not full virtualization, it is operating system-level virtualization and it's a very good thing.

Native performance, easy to use, low overhead, extremely high virtual machine density and security are all accolades given to this type of virtualization. It's surprising that VMware hasn't incorporated it into its product line before now. And, it's the one piece of the VMware puzzle that's just outside the scope of a company that has flourished on full virtualization technology.

But, as IT budgets get squeezed ever tighter, it's time to take another look at Zones.

Don't forget the Cloud implications of such an offering. Think of the densities. Think of the savings. Think of the expanded opportunities of a VMware-branded Zone.

If you (VMware) don't want to start the whole R&D machine from scratch, I know of a company that already has this territory in its clutches. Have you ever heard of Parallels? Parallels does Windows and Linux zones. They also have other virtualization products that would round-out the current VMware portfolio.

VMware would own virtualization.

Even more than it does now.

I can't give advice to VMware--not serious advice anyway. They've done pretty darn well on their own without it so far. However, it couldn't hurt to entertain this concept with a focused look at the future of computing. It's all going to take place in the data center. Commodity computing means the need for extreme density. Extreme density can only be realized through Zones.

VMware, if you're aiming for the Cloud, you'd better get into the Zone.

* If any of this happens, I'm expecting one of those giant-sized checks and a spot in the commercials.

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