Take Five With Tom Fenton
Free Virtualization Platforms
Despite contrary perceptions, virtualization doesn't have to be expensive.
As the battle for virtualization market share heats up, vendors are working hard to one-up each other on what they can give away to draw more customers. The theory is that once customers try the free stuff, they'll want the more advanced-and non-free-capabilities. It's great for IT shops, as they can get solid virtualization for nada. As Homer Simpson so eloquently said about stealing cable: "No payments per month? Yeah, I think we can swing that!"
Citrix really started the free arms race last February when it decided to give away XenServer. Some of what you get: Citrix's version of live motion, called XenMotion, which also incorporates multi-node resource sharing; management for an unlimited number of servers and virtual machines (VMs); and integrated storage management. That's an impressive amount of functionality-and all for nothing.
Microsoft Hyper-V Server
Perhaps taking a cue from Citrix, Microsoft added a lot of no-cost goodies to Hyper-V Server R2, which is due out later this year. For example, it will include not only live migration, but host clustering-up to 16 nodes-for high availability. Hyper-V Server is the free, standalone version of Hyper-V; you don't need to buy Windows Server 2008 to get it.
Xen is the original open source hypervisor, and it's still going strong as a free, open source software project. Xen is the basis for many other hypervisors in the industry, including XenServer and hypervisors from Oracle, Virtual Iron, Linux and others. Xen has been around since 2003, and is currently on version 3.4, making it a very mature
hypervisor on which to build.
VMware has been dragged into the era of free virtualization solutions. And even though it grudgingly made a free version of its flagship hypervisor ESX, that free version-ESXi-is a fine product. ESXi includes up to 8-way SMP; can handle 64 logical processing cores, 256 virtual CPUs and 1TB RAM per host; and has something no other platform offers: memory overcommit, which enables higher consolidation ratios.
Oracle, not known for giving away software, breaks the mold with Oracle VM. It has browser-based management, and supports Windows and Linux guests in x86 and 64-bit environments. It's very likely that enthusiasm for Oracle VM will be in Oracle shops, as it's hard to see non-Oracle users trying this solution.
On a sad note, Virtual Iron Single Server Edition is no longer available. Virtual Iron confirmed that it stopped offering the free suite of products earlier this year. Bummer. What free virtualization product is your favorite? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.