Patch Tuesday In A Virtual Environment

There's been much banter on the blogs recently about how frequently VMware is or isn't releasing patches, who's virtualization product does and doesn't require you to reboot servers or take down the hypervisor, and whether running a hypervisor on top of an OS is more disruptive than a native hypervisor (like VMware ESX or the coming Microsoft Hyper-V Server.)

All good questions. And, not a lot of answers or production experience to draw upon, yet. All of these posts raise several questions for me.

1. Is 2008 the year of the Virtualization Vendor Shakeout? It's a little soon to say there will be a shakeout of the virtualization market in '08, but the increase in vendor testosterone and bravado is a good sign things could get interesting. Look for the tone and rhetoric to increase as vendors try to do whatever they can to break VMware's stride in the market. Xen, Microsoft and VMware are at the top of the heap, and best of luck to the rest.

2. Will virtualization make Patch Tuesday easier or worse? This may be a situation where Microsoft has an advantage. Why? Microsoft has a much more mature patching distribution and process than less mature vendors. Hopefully, Microsoft has put serious thought into how virtual machines are updated and patched without (or with minimal) production downtime. My guess is Microsoft has given this serious thought, but that's only a guess at this point.

3. Will patching work effectively in a mixed environment? Think about it. What happens when a Linux system running Xen or VMware needs OS patches, hypervisor patches, or both. Who goes first, who coordinates and what's the recovery process for backing out? Again, is this a big advantage for Microsoft, who controls the entire software stack? Interesting question.

The bottom line is there really is a lot yet to be learned about managing virtualized applications, servers and data centers. This process will have to mature right along with the underlying technology.

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