SWsoft: Two Kinds Of Virtualization Better Than One

server virtualization

At least that seems to be the thinking over at SWsoft, which is improving its Virtuozzo container-based server virtualization technology while readying the beta release of a new hypervisor-based technology under its Parallels brand, and preparing a unified management approach to both.

SWsoft, a Herndon, Via.-based developer of server virtualization and server automation software, acquired Parallels, which develops software applications that virtualizes desktop PCs and allows Windows applications to run on top of Apple's OS X operating system, over three years ago.

And now is the time to start working the two together, said Curt Daniel, vice president of marketing and alliances at SWsoft.

The Parallels side of SWsoft in the next couple of weeks plans to release the beta version of a new hypervisor-based server virtualization software, similar to that of VMware's ESX Server, Daniel said.

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The main difference between the Parallels and VMware products will be in how the solutions are put together, Daniel said. "Ours will be a comprehensive solution," he said. "With VMware, you need to buy various components to complete the solution. That will make our technology easier to use, more open, and more open to partnering."

Unlike VMware, which has VMware Server to virtualize servers on top of an existing operating system and VMware ESX Server to virtualize servers on bare-metal hardware, the Parallels offering will allow solution providers and their customers both choices, Daniel said.

"It has an option when installed to do it on top of an operating system, or on bare metal," he said. "We're not trying to say that Microsoft or Red Hat isn't relevant."

Another difference is that Parallels' server virtualization takes advantage of the Parallels Macintosh heritage to allow virtualization to be done on Apple's OS X operating system.

Fred Evans, product manager at First Tech Computer, a Minneapolis-based Apple solution provider, said that his company has sold a lot of Macs with the Parallels Windows desktop virtualization software, and is interested in using Parallels for server virtualization.

"We sell a lot of servers to our customers, mainly Macintosh-based," he said. "If they can run an Exchange Server on a Mac server, customers could use it."

The success that Parallels has had with consumers is a good argument for success on the business side of virtualization, said Geoff Blanck, vice president of marketing and sales and service at Small Dog Electronics, a Waitsfield, Vt.-based solution provider and the largest Parallels partner in the U.S.

"Mac servers are proven reliable," Blanck said. "The ability to run both Macs and PCs off the same platform would be very helpful to small businesses."

This month also saw Intel and Parallels collaborate on Intel Trusted Execution Technology (Intel TXT), aimed at increasing the security of virtual servers on physical servers built using Intel processors with the vPro security layer.

Intel is an investor in both SWsoft and VMware, as well as in another competitor in this space, Virtual Iron.

In contrast to the Parallel's and VMware's server-based approach to server virtualization, SWsoft's Virtuozzo technology has been focused on a container-based approach similar to that used by Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating system.

Instead of developing virtual servers each with its own operating system instance as is done with Parallels and VMware, container-based virtualization carves one instance of the operating system up so that it runs multiple applications, each in its own container, Daniel said.

Using virtual containers eases management compared to server-based virtualization because, regardless of the number of applications, a customer only has to manage just one instance of the operating system.

The container approach also helps mitigate the problem of virtual server sprawl, a relatively new phenomenon caused by the ease at which new virtual servers can be created and saved for future use, Daniel said.

Virtualizing applications on a single instance of the operating system is also good for smaller companies because that operating system handles storage, so as application containers are migrated, it is not necessary to use shared storage, Daniel said. "And a SAN can be quite expensive for smaller and mid-sized companies," he said.

SWsoft earlier this month unveiled the latest beta of its Virtuozzo 4.0 application. It now includes Live Migration, a feature that allows containers to be migrated while the application is running. Also new is a redesigned user interface with access to centralized resources such as application templates and sample containers, compatibility with Windows and Red Hat clustering services, and more flexible management. It is expected to become available late this year.

Going forward, SWsoft plans to release a unified user interface to manage both the Parallels and Virtuozzo offerings from a single console, a company spokesperson said. Eventually, the goal is to expand that user interface to let it also manage virtual servers created using VMware, Microsoft's Viridian, and other technologies, the spokesperson said.

Over time, SWsoft plans to use its Live Migration tool to allow applications to migrate from Virtuozzo containers to Parallels virtual servers and vice-versa. For example, a customer running multiple applications may need to migrate a mission critical application to a Parallels-based virtual server in order to update the Virtuozzo machine, and then migrate the application back to the container, the spokesperson said.