3 virtualization vendors worth watching

Amid the noise over Microsoft, VMware, and Red Hat, three other virtualization players have ideas and innovations worth mining

3 virtualization vendors worth taking cues from
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Microsoft and VMware both had a lot to crow about this week after Gartner's Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure report gave them prominent place. Red Hat and Citrix also made showings -- the former reinventing itself as a container maven and the latter as a driving force behind the technology used in Amazon's cloud and elsewhere.

But what about the other virtualization players? Take a closer look at these three, and you'll find each has technologies and approaches worth keeping in mind -- especially as the virtualization market continues to shift away from VMs and toward containers.

Huawei

Over the last couple of years, the Asian networking and telecom giant has been assembling its own OpenStack-based FusionSphere product, going so far as to become a gold-level member of the OpenStack consortium. Like many OpenStack products, it's aimed mainly at telcos -- partly because a primary target is users of Huawei's own hardware -- but it works on generic x86 systems as well and leverages Xen's hypervisor (with a KVM-based suite to come later) at its heart.

What might stop most people from looking more closely at Huawei is its controversial reputation. The company made headlines in the wake of the Edward Snowden's revelations due to its uncomfortably close ties with the Chinese government, and afterward it concentrated its efforts elsewhere -- mainly Brazil, Russia, and India. But wariness of its hardware shouldn't translate into studied ignorance of its software, and the way the company builds on top of OpenStack (its resource-pooling strategies) deserves a closer look.

Parallels/Odin

The name Parallels ought to be familiar to anyone who has run Windows on a Mac, but its place in the larger virtualization and container world shouldn't be ignored. Odin, the company's cloud infrastructure subdivision, markets Virtuozzo, the company's container-based offering. Given that Parallels was a creator of a key Linux virtualization technology (OpenVZ), its expertise with containers is hard to ignore, even when that product doesn't often get mentioned in the same breath as Docker, CoreOS, or Red Hat.

Two potential issues arise for Parallels/Odin. First, Virtuozzo is marketed mainly at the service provider market, in much the same way as OpenStack; the company needs to aim downmarket if it wants to find greater recognition. Second, the container world is fast moving into uncharted territory, and Parallels needs to be comfortable with that, accept it as part of the landscape, and work with it. (Odin has added more compatibility with Docker to Virtuozzo of late, but that needs to be a prelude to more aggressive development.)

Oracle

Yes, Oracle -- but it is included more as a contrasting example or source of ideas than as a model per se. Part of the problem is the use of Oracle's technologies -- the Xen-based Oracle VM, Oracle Linux Containers, all of its Solaris goodies -- to leverage its existing customers to add value rather than to entice new clients. While Oracle might well have some genuine virtualization or containerization innovations, they are likely to come to full fruition in other hands.

To wit: Joyent took pieces of OpenSolaris and used it to fashion the highly creative open source SmartOS project. Oracle might never have tried it, given the monolithic flavor of its business -- which is a shame since Solaris Zones are legendarily secure. Sure, Oracle added OpenStack support to Solaris, but the real payoff is seeing which Solaris features are exposed in OpenStack -- such as Unified Archives -- and how they might be reincarnated elsewhere.

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