Parallels Virtuozzo Containers 4.0, Part 1

Gibbs begins an in-depth look at Parallels Virtuozzo Containers 4.0, an OS virtualization system.

Last week I started with a couple of tips on Gmail

A reader who shall remain anonymous wrote in to ask “how to have my auto signature at the bottom of my reply when I reply to a chain mail in Gmail. Today it goes to the end of the chain mail.”

Dear Anon.: There is no way I know of to do this, but why are you replying to chain mail? Chain mail is a curse of the Internet and isn’t worth dealing with. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

Here’s another Gmail tip: If you use labels in Gmail and you use an RSS feed reader that supports authentication, you can get an RSS feed for any particular label by using the URL mail/feed/atom/label/ (obviously your name and password connects you to your account despite the generic URL). Even more cunningly, unread mail is automatically assigned the label “unread” so you can keep an eye on what’s waiting for you with mail/feed/ atom/unread/.

Anyway, last week I began discussing the recently released Parallels Virtuozzo Containers 4.0, a product that performs operating system virtualization. I summarized my thoughts about Containers as “Outstanding! Amazing! Way cool!” and promised to tell you why.

First of all, let me explain what Containers is. Unlike products such as VMware (which I still love in an unnatural way), Containers virtualizes the operating system it runs on rather than creating virtual machines – VOSs rather than VMs if you will.

Operating system virtualization makes the host OS services available by routing application calls from the VOSs to the shared host OS. In the VM architecture, an entire PC hardware environment is simulated in each virtual machine.

On the plus side for VOSs, the memory usage and CPU utilization overheads are lower because there’s only the host OS handling the system calls rather than one OS per virtualized environment. This means you can get more VOSs running on a given platform than you can when using VM (Parallels claims three times as many).

That’s the plus side. On the minus side, all of the VOSs must be of the same type as the host operating system. With a VM architecture, because it emulates an entire hardware platform, you can run pretty much any mixture of operating systems.

Here’s a curious thing I discovered while testing Containers: You can run Containers and VMware on the same platform at the same time! For testing purposes this is a little slice of paradise.

Containers is available for 32- and 64-bit x86 processors for Windows Server 200x and Linux, as well as for Linux IA64 on Itanium processors. Best of all, the minimum requirement is a Pentium III processor with 1GB of RAM so it will run on your older server hardware.

Installing Containers -- at least for Windows 2003 as I did -- was a no-brainer, but as with any system-level software, you’ve got some fairly serious reading to do to understand all of the ins and outs of the product.

Once installed, you launch the Parallels Management Console and create containers – that’s what the virtualized operating system instances are called – from templates. These templates provide a predefined set of services and applications.

I swear the space for this column gets smaller every week, or maybe the products just get bigger. Next week we’ll get deeper into Parallels Virtuozzo Containers.

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