IBM Developer Cloud
From archive: November 2011 X
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Ok, I admit, I was among the early adopters of the late nineties to get hooked on VMWare. In fact, as an open source advocate I remember playing with "freemware", qemu, bochs, openVZ, and several other x86 virtualization technologies. Likewise, I was among the first to start using Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). I've been hooked by x86 commodity hardware virtualization for a long time, and I thank VMWare and Ed Bugnion in particular for that. But why choose VMWare now?
Ten years ago when the CPUs made it hard to virtualize efficiently, VMWare was great. After 2003 if you were mostly interested in linux (king of the cloud) Xen was an excellent open source alternative to virtualize x86 commodity servers. In 2006 Amazon launched their EC2 service which would become the defacto cloud standard. EC2 is built on Xen and is probably the single biggest x86 virtualization environment in the world. Several hundred thousand of my closest friends have found EC2 to be a fantastic compute platform that goes beyond server virtualization, all without a trace of VMWare. So why choose VMWare now?
Today modern CPUs include specific support for virtualization making it easier to deliver efficient virtulaization without Xen's paravirt trick or VMWare's innovative code patching. Current linux kernels include support for KVM and I believe upstream kernels will again support Xen natively. I remember when RedHat bought Qumranet, developer of KVM, SPICE, and SolidICE (a desktop virtualization technology) in 2008. Back then KVM didn't compare to VMWare. It certainly was not "good enough" back then. Three years later, KVM has matured extremely well. I think it really is "good enough" for commodity OS virtualization. In my cloud development efforts I've run hundreds of thousands of VMs on Xen and KVM during the past 2 1/2 years. While I really respect Xen, I've come to like and appreciate KVM on modern CPUs since it's just so simple and easy to use. Today there are so many "good enough" choices for x86 virtualization from Xen, KVM, and VirtualBox to Hyper-V, which Microsoft is practically giving away just to keep Windows relevant in the datacenter. So why choose VMWare now?
Is low end disruption a threat for VMWare? Linux and Apache are certainly well established in the datacenter preventing Microsoft's dominance over the desktop to spill into the datacenter. Ten years ago when Windows had 90-something percent market share of desktop computers, I myself considered Microsoft an untouchable giant. Today, however, I think they're doomed because Apple is cooler, all the kids have 'em along with iphones and and ipads. By analogy, VMWare should be very concerned. IMHO, they can and will lose their dominance and I think they'll do so by the classic Innovator's Dilemma. VMWare continues to cater to their traditional high end customers. Meanwhile, nearly three quarters of a million developers are using Amazon's cloud as their platform for new software applications and services. And the best part is Amazon's cloud doesn't even need or use VMWare. In fact, neither does Google's AppEngine or Microsoft's Azure. Sense a pattern? If you believe, as I do, that we're on the cusp of a new platform war to deliver the next generation of applications and services, then the key to success is the application development community. VMWare may have operations teams sold, but developers love the cloud. Interestingly, they may not even have the ops guys sold after all. Here's a forum thread titled "VMWare, a falling giant".
"According to Ars Technica, 'A new survey seems to show that VMware's iron grip on the enterprise virtualization market is loosening, with 38 percent of businesses planning to switch vendors within the next year due to licensing models and the robustness of competing hypervisors.' What do IT-savvy Slashdotters have to say about moving away from one of the more stable and feature rich VM architectures available?"
The survey found that VMware is the primary hypervisor for server virtualization in 67.6 percent of shops, followed by Microsoft's Hyper-V with 16.4 percent and Citrix with 14.4 percent. Wow, this doesn't even compare to Microsoft's former dominance for which I recall seeing numbers as high as 98% market share!
So why choose VMWare now? Maybe the question should be, "Have you tried an open source hypervisor lately?" Or better yet, "have you tried a public cloud yet"? Frankly, I don't even like using hypervisors directly anymore as I find clouds much more powerful and easier to use. Why don't you give ISAAC a try? You can see what a real cloud is like while also trying out open source hypervisors.