Children, Behave!

Why can't the virtualization vendors just get along?

Nothing aggravates me more than to watch companies point fingers at each other and claim who’s standard is better and who’s is ready for prime time. When it happens in the consumer electronics industry its aggravating enough – such as the current Hi-Def DVD wars– because it halts the progress of technology adoption and it hurts the consumer. But when it happens in Open Source and open systems, its particularly disheartening, because it provides more and more ammunition for the Redmond Collective to say “See? These jackasses cant get their act together. Come to the warmth and cuddling bosom of the Borg. All your base belong to us!”

The latest in standardization spats that’s been getting my underpants in a twist is this whole virtualization battle between VMWare, Xen, Redhat and Novell, and the maintainers of the Linux kernel.

VMWare: “My standard is more mature and is used by enterprise IT today!”

Xen: “My standard is more open and is Free!”

Novell: “Our distribution is more leading edge for using Xen!”

Red Hat: “Ours won’t use Xen because its not ready for prime time!”

Linux Kernel: “Won’t you idiots make up you’re damned mind and agree to something?”

Borg: “To hell with these long haired communist hippie idiots and use Microsoft Virtual server. Its an easy choice, and we’ve made it for you!”

OpenVZ: “Hey, we got a open source virtualization solution too!”

Now, I realize I’m making a bit too much light of the situation, but virtualization technology is a BIG deal. Along with clustering/grid computing and LAMP and JBOSS and open desktops, it is going to be one of the key areas and applications in the next few years in which Linux is going to make headway in enterprise environments and challenge traditional monolithic systems like Windows and commercial Unices. Now that on-chip, on the metal virtualization is a reality with the current generation of Intel and AMD processors, we’re going to see a whole pattern of using Linux as a server and application consolidation platform. That is, if we can get all these bozos to agree to work together.

I admit to being a VMWare bigot. I use the product daily, and without a doubt its the most polished virtualization solution on the market today, with a host of other commercial tools sold by VMware to make it a complete managed solution. It also doesn’t suck that VMWare Server e.x.p. is freely downloadable and usable, as is the VMWare Player, which I regard as one of the all time top gifts to the Linux end-user community by a commercial software vendor.

At the same time, I see the huge value in making virtualization solutions open source, and thats where projects like Xen and OpenVZ come into play. I don’t currently use either of those software projects because while they are fully functional, they just don’t have the polish of VMWare. However, I do want to see them succeed, and I want to see virtualization integrated into the default Linux kernel tree. And we cant have three or four different virtualization standards flying around out there, there has to be some common ground or there will be chaos, and as a result the Borg will continue to reign.

It’s clear to me that we need to have a sit down among all the parties. While VMWare has been extremely generous in making their entry-level server virtualization solution free, I think they still need to make the core of their virtualization engine open source, so that they can get the developer community working on refining it and extending it. At the same time, we need to bring Xen and OpenVZ into the picture, and get all three parties to agree on a single kernel-level and hypervisor standard by which commercial software vendors like VMWare and Virtuozzo (the commercial version of OpenVZ) can build and sell as commercial products and services and that other 3rd parties can tie into easily, and that Linux vendors like Redhat and Novell and the Linux Kernel group can agree that is pre-built into the Linux kernel as foundation technology and provide all the API hooks that everyone needs for software development.

But then again, there’s always the Borg to go to when we can’t figure out how to play nice with each other, right?

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