To update an old IT saying about IBM and job security, few IT managers may get fired for choosing VMware to virtualize their infrastructure. VMware, after all, is the safe bet: The company currently enjoys 80 percent of the server-side virtualization market, according to IDC.
But at least one company, Salsa Labs, which offers an online platform for advocacy groups, has adopted a less widely used virtualization platform, one from Red Hat.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Citrix, Microsoft, Red Hat, or VMware -- find out which came out on top in the Test Center's virtualization shoot-out. | Doing server virtualization right is not so simple. InfoWorld's expert contributors show you how to get it right in this 24-page "Server Virtualization Deep Dive" PDF guide. ]
Red Hat's Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV), based on the KVM hypervisor, proved to be a better fit for the company, said Justin Nemmers, Salsa Labs chief operating officer, in an interview coordinated by Red Hat.
"Both RHEV and VMware had the core features that we needed," Nemmers said, adding that RHEV approach was much more inexpensive. Nemmers did not detail the price differences between the two software packages, other than to note "for us, [the difference] was significant," he said.
Salsa Labs runs a SaaS platform that can be used by advocacy groups to organize their campaigns and get their messages out. Over 2,000 groups, constituting 50 million members, currently use the service. Salsa sends out about 1.34TB of data every month.
The company has experienced 30 to 40 percent year-over-year growth since its launch in 2004, so virtualization seemed like a logical step to smooth growing pains in the IT department.
Prior to virtualization, the company would set up a new server whenever some new function was needed. This approach was problematic insofar as when the server went down the function would not be available.
By placing the application in a virtual machine, Salsa could move it from a troubled server to one that worked. The company could also save hardware costs by running multiple VMs on a single server.
Salsa relies almost entirely on Linux-based open source software for its operations: The Salsa platform, built on Java, runs on Apache Tomcat. Nginx is used for the Web server software. MySQL databases and a MongoDB data store hold the data. Red Hat Directory Server authenticates users and the software stack is managed through Red Hat Network Satellite.
When it came to choosing virtualization infrastructure, the decision came down to VMware or Red Hat. Choosing Microsoft was "never even an option," given that Salsa's IT talent was more familiar with Linux, Nemmers said. With those two companies, "the decision, realistically, was around cost as much as minimum functionality that we needed."
Live migration was one required feature. To move a VM from one physical server to another while keeping it running was critical for Salsa. Both Red Hat and VMware offered this capability, though VMware's came with "considerable additional cost," Nemmers said.