April 13, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
Leaner virtualization coming to Windows, Linux
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From SWsoft's point of view, customers only need to pay for one copy of Windows and may subdivide it into as many partitions as they like. "It is a single copy of Windows. We isolate groups of users, files and applications," Beloussov said.
Microsoft--whose financial incentives are opposite to SWsoft's--disagrees completely. "We look at it as each one of those instances is an operating system license," Neil said.
Similar confusion could extend farther up the software hierarchy. For example, when running Web server software, many different containers can use the same copy stored in the same memory location. Does that mean there are several copies of the software or just one on a server?
That complication is one reason some software companies are moving to a different pricing structure. Red Hat, for example, lets customers install as many copies of an operating system as they like on a server. They pay by the number of processor sockets the server has.
With virtualization, however, that approach still has its limitations. For example, Virtuozzo, VMware and Xen all let one apparent instance of an operating system be moved from one machine to another. Some believe therefore that virtualization will push companies toward purchases that permit company-wide software use or, if an appropriate measurement can be found, pricing on the basis of how much work a particular software product accomplishes.
SWsoft knows its challenges include not only technology but competition--in particular Microsoft. In fact, the software giant uses the same Windows containers approach as SWsoft. Both rely on a feature called Windows Terminal Services that today lets several remote users tap into a shared server, with each user appearing to get his or her own operating system.
But SWsoft believes it can stay ahead of the giant, just as VMware has stayed ahead even though Microsoft bought lower-level virtualization software. For one thing, the company has 28 patents in the virtualization area, Beloussov said. For another, much of the hard work in virtualization isn't producing the low-level software, but rather higher-level management tools to govern containers.
It's possible Microsoft could join forces with SWsoft, if SWsoft can stay ahead, Beloussov said. "You have to be able to compete with them so they become your partner," he said.
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