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Virtualize Those Mac Servers

As you may know, I've become a certified Macophile over the last year or so. My MacBook Pro is my main work machine, and I love it -- with a few very annoying exceptions (which I'll probably blog about before too much longer.)

You may have noticed that Parallels (formerly SWsoft) is similarly smitten with Apple. It is, by far, doing the most virtualization-related development for the platform. First there was Parallels, a virtual environment for Macs that allowed the running of Windows OSes. Parallels was a breakthrough product in the industry; suddenly, Mac lovers could use Windows-only products without buying a PC.

That innovation has continuted with the just-released, first-ever hypervisor for Apple's servers, known as Xserve. In the press release announcing Parallels Server for Mac, Serguei Beloussov, Parallels CEO, had this to say:

"Parallels Server for Mac opens the door for virtualization on Apple servers and represents an important step in delivering on our 'Optimized Computing' vision by adding hypervisor-based server virtualization. Parallels Server for Mac will be a catalyst in driving Mac server adoption in the enterprise, as it is the first product ever to enable IT professionals and developers to capitalize on the power of OS X Server while keeping the flexibility to run Windows and Linux workloads."

There's lots of marketing hype in that statement, of course, but there are some interesting nuggets. One is that Apple and Parallels both have a vested interest in seeing Mac server deployment take off. Mac server is a marginal product in the market; in fact, it's quite difficult to find anyone who uses them (not impossible, before the flames start coming my way -- it just takes some serious research).

Will the ability to run Windows, Linux and so on drive adoption? We'll see; frankly, I'm skeptical. Xserve has been around a long time, and it's much more niche-y even than Macs, which for years have been relegated to art departments (although that's certainly been changing lately.) But if Xserve works as well as most Macs, they may start catching on. I'd like to hear from admins out there -- would you try an Xserve? Have you? Let me know.

In the meantime, work continues on Parallel's bare-metal hypervisor for Windows, Linux and other servers. Still in beta, this will be the real product to watch, as it's in more direct competition with ESX/ESXi, Hyper-V, XenServer and all the Xen variants from Virtual Iron, Red Hat, Novell, Oracle, Sun, and all the rest. When it comes out, Parallels and Sun will be the only vendors with products that do both OS and hardware virtualization (OS virtualization essentially clones copies of the OS, allowing multiple copies of, for example, Windows Server 2003 to run on a single physical box with almost no discernable performance degradation). Will that edge help out those vendors? We'll see.

Posted by Keith Ward on 06/24/2008 at 12:48 PM


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