January 17, 2006 4:00 AM PST
Companies push Linux partitioning effort
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SWsoft is trying to get OpenVZ made part of the mainstream Linux kernel--the software at the heart of the operating system--and a part of the major commercial Linux versions, said Kirill Korotaev, a project manager at the Herndon, Va.-based company.
In this, it has a major ally: Red Hat, the top seller of the open-source operating system, which plans to add the software to its free Fedora version of Linux for enthusiasts.
SWsoft is trying to get OpenVZ virtualization made part of the mainstream Linux kernel, which would align it with rival operating systems that have the efficient-server technology.
Acceptance into the kernel would likely bring major Linux backers to OpenVZ. But the effort faces a number of challenges, analysts say.
The companies' move to make OpenVZ partitioning standard in Linux is timely, said Pund-IT analyst Charles King.
"I believe virtualization is a current or coming fact of life for every information technology vendor," King said. "Vendors who figure out how to easily integrate virtualization features into their solutions will have a leg-up on competitors."
Over the years, new ways to carve a single server into separate sections have been introduced. Such divisions make it easier to run multiple independent tasks on a machine, keeping it gainfully employed instead of letting it idle through operational lulls. That increase in efficiency means collections of underutilized servers can be replaced with a smaller number of machines, lowering administration and operation costs.
Many of the several ways to subdivide a server rely on virtualization, which breaks the hard link between software and the lower-level software or hardware on which it runs. The software's real foundation is replaced with a virtual one, but the operating system or higher-level software thinks it's running on the real thing.
Using its own take on virtualization, OpenVZ divides a single copy of Linux so it appears to be several independent instances of the operating system, from the perspective of higher-level software. Separate domains, called virtual private servers, can be independently rebooted--though in reality, the underlying operating system stays up and running.
OpenVZ's approach isn't new; the same process has been used elsewhere. For example, Sun Microsystems' Solaris was given a similar feature, called containers, when version 10 was launched a year ago. Before that, developers added a related technology, called "jails," to the FreeBSD version of Unix. IBM's Serge Hallyn has been working on jails for Linux, a variation of BSD's jails.
And OpenVZ isn't even the first major virtual private server software project for Linux. That position goes to Vserver, an open-source package that's used in Positive Software's FreeVPS product.
But OpenVZ has the advantage over Vserver, said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff. "OpenVZ is an offshoot of a well-regarded commercial product that's used by quite a few large hosting providers, so it's clearly the more mature," he said. OpenVZ is an open-source underpinning to Virtuozzo, sold by SWsoft, the main backer of the Linux push.