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Virtualization gaining ground in open source

Apr 03, 20065 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsIBMLinux

Open source efforts to make it easier for companies to virtualize data center resources, whether they are Linux- or Windows-based, will be on full display this week at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in Boston.

Virtualization specialists XenSource and Virtual Iron, both rooted in Linux and open source, plan to use the show to announce support for Microsoft systems.

VMware, which created the market for virtualizing x86-based servers, plans to throw open the proprietary file format behind its virtual machines, making available to third-party developers and management software vendors the technology it uses to create software containers that include an operating system, applications and related data.

The idea is to create a standard, open platform for virtualizing x86-based servers so customers have more choices when it comes to deploying, managing and monitoring virtual resources. The move should help spur adoption of the nascent technology, industry observers say.

“With proprietary technology, people box themselves in,” says Eric Bogatie, president and CTO of managed service provider NI Solutions in Ontario. “The adoption of Linux has been huge because of the open development community and the sharing of ideas and technologies. That’s what I love about Virtual Iron’s technology: they’re working with other companies who say, ‘Yes, we will support you guys and develop technology that will allow us to talk to your technology.'”

The focus is part of a larger shift in the industry as enterprises look beyond the basic Linux kernel. LinuxWorld, once the domain of the “sandal and ponytail set,” will feature a new parallel conference called OpenSolutions World designed to give the growing number of business-focused attendees insight into open source technologies higher up the stack.

In addition, there will be a wider variety of sessions, including the first-ever track focused on mobile and embedded Linux, and a grid showcase.

Perhaps the strongest evidence that Linux is becoming mainstream and is being viewed as just another component of heterogeneous computing environments: For the first time Microsoft will give a LinuxWorld keynote. Bill Hilf, Microsoft’s director of platform technology strategy, will talk about integrating open source and proprietary software.

“The last LinuxWorld in San Francisco was where you really saw a spike in the total focus further up the stack,” says Bill Weinberg, senior analyst at Open Source Development Lab. “People are not choosing their platform only on the merits of the underlying operating system and the kernel, but on the ability to support their workloads.”

As a result, it’s not surprising to see a number of announcements around virtualization, a technology that’s fast gaining adoption on x86 servers.

With vendors looking to standardize on a basic virtualization platform, enterprises should be paying close attention to management tools, analysts say. XenSource includes basic management capabilities in XenEnterprise, which it plans to roll out at the show. Virtual Iron is integrating its virtualization and policy-based management tools with the Xen virtualization technology in Version 3 of its software that also is expected to be unveiled this week.

Another virtualization tool set to launch at LinuxWorld is SWsoft‘s Data Automation Suite. The software can be used to create and configure virtual servers with SWsoft’s Virtuozzo virtualization software. The SWsoft Data Automation Suite also provides a Web portal that lets IT managers track virtual server utilization among departments in an organization to better manage costs, the company says.

With all the buzz around virtualization and VoIP, these two technologies will come together at LinuxWorld. IBM and 3Com plan to announce a joint project to port 3Com’s Linux-based VCX IP PBX platform to IBM System i (aka AS/400) mid-range servers. Under this partnership, 3Com is porting the Session Initiation Protocol-based VCX platform to a Linux platform that can run as a partition on a System i server. The goal is to tap into an installed base of more than 40,000 Lotus Notes/System i users, and give the option of consolidating VoIP and messaging platforms on a single box, IBM and 3Com say.

On the security front, Astaro, which makes a Linux-based firewall/VPN/intrusion-detection system product, is expected to launch its Security Gateway 7 at the show. New features include enhanced QoS support for VoIP traffic flowing through the security device and a more secure FTP proxy server that requires no user client for connections. SSL VPN capability also is added, allowing for remote access to corporate data via a Web browser.

Show organizer IDG World Expo, a sister company of Network World, says it expects about 8,000 people at the conference being held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Some 150 exhibitors are expected on the 40,000-square-foot show floor, including newcomers such as open source content management company Alfresco and open source CRM vendor SugarCRM, as well as Ubuntu Linux, a free desktop Linux distribution that has gained significant attention lately. A 2005 survey of 3,300 Linux users by the OSDL showed Ubuntu as the most popular Linux distribution, with 53%.

IT and PC computing companies returning to the show after a hiatus include Apple, along with 3Com and EMC, whose VMware division, a veteran of LinuxWorld, will be at the show in a separate booth. Sun and HP will not have booths on the show floor, though both have representatives speaking at various sessions.

HP, the market leader in Linux server shipments, according to IDC, plans to announce the first offerings in its Open Source Integrated Portfolio, which will provide hardware, software and services to help customers deploy open source, commercial and hybrid applications on Linux, Unix and Windows – another illustration of the move to look beyond an isolated view of Linux.