March 30, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Miracle cure for software setup?

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Open-source software, of course, has fewer restrictions. "Linux makes it easy," Gillett said.

Free versions of Linux are abundant, but distributing premium products from the two Linux market leaders isn't simple. Thus, Kusnetzky said, "It's wise to have a partnership with Red Hat or Novell," which is a move that Open-Xchange has made.

Not just the operating system
Microsoft, Xen and VMware virtualize a computer's hardware. But some companies tackling the problem at a higher level are offering a different revamp of software installation.

SWsoft sells a product called Virtuozzo that essentially virtualizes the operating system rather than the underlying hardware. That lets several programs run at once in separate zones on one instance Linux or Windows. Sun Microsystems has taken the same approach with its "containers" technology in Solaris 10.

"We have templates for close to 100 different solutions and applications for various configurations," said SWsoft Chief Executive Serguei Beloussov. "When you apply a template to a certain virtual private server (a partition), this solution will immediately become available."

The company has partnerships to distribute prepackaged templates of Web server software and is working on new partnerships to offer software for more powerful servers as well, he said.

Softricity is another company that tries to break the hard link between operating system and applications. Its software first captures all the modifications a software package makes to Windows, letting companies store employees' configurations on a central server rather than directly modifying a PC and potentially causing conflicts among different programs.

"The applications are no longer bound to the operating system," said David Greschler, co-founder and vice president of corporate marketing. That lets administrators quickly set up new PCs or update existing ones, he said. It also means employees can move from one PC to another without disruption, because their software is automatically enabled when they log on to a new PC.

Different standards
Yet another complication comes from the fact that VMware, Xen and Microsoft use a different file format for their virtual machines. In August, VMware began trying to standardize its format. That was shortly after Microsoft began offering royalty-free licenses to use its format, called Virtual Hard Disk. And Xen uses a third format, XVM.

Barriers between these formats are not insurmountable. For example, XenSource licensed Microsoft's VHD and will offer the ability to import virtual machines created with Microsoft Virtual Server, Crosby said, and VMware shared its format as well. At the same time, VMware offers support for that feature with its Virtual Machine Importer software.

But they're barriers nonetheless. "It will tend to retard the movement toward a standard hypervisor level that just sits on top of x86 hardware," Haff said, adding that low barriers would mean customers could more easily substitute one virtualization company's product for another. "It is not in VMware's (or Microsoft's) business interest to be able to have someone's free, native hypervisor just slip in to replace ESX Server."

Another hitch stems from cultural obstacles to virtualization in general, Red Hat Chief Executive Matthew Szulik said. "The customers I've talked to over the last six months are challenged by the human issues: How will they deal with the sharing of physical resources across the enterprise? We've all gotten conditioned to having our own server environments," he said.

Virtual installation will happen, but XenSource's Crosby understands the change won't happen overnight, "I think it's going to be a fairly profound change for the industry to get there."

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13 comments

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OS Licensing not a problem...
Perhaps Apple might have some reservations, but Microsoft is clearly already thinking around those lines and no doubt has a plan to address licensing.

Outside those two, the vast majority of operating systems are freely redistributable and wouldn't pose a licensing issue. The virtualization scheme is particularly of interest for server-side software (databases, app servers, etc), so Linux and FreeBSD are likely to be the environments of choice anyway -- they certainly have the appropriate license terms to make them very convenient to virtualize and are much more easily trimmed down and customized to fit specific needs.

Lots of vendors already ship Linux live CDs with demo versions of their product. Oracle hands that stuff out like candy.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Outside those two...."
Ignoring the impact of Windows and Apple operating systems when discussing OS licensing is perfectly ridiculous.
Posted by Jim Hubbard (326 comments )
Link Flag
Windows on Linux
IMO, VMWare is the only way to run Windows. Our virtual MS servers (all fully licensed) are hosted on Linux servers. If a virus/hacker/bad patch. etc. damages one of our Windows "servers", restoring it is as easy as restoring the virtual machine file directory.

Prepackaging as discussed in the article would be icing on the cake.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The best feature of VMWare...
... is that you can have a VM and designate
disks in the VM as having non-permanent changes.
Having a system where you can have parts
read-only, other parts read-write, and still
others read-write-but-not-saved is just
fantastic.

Being able to move the VMs to different machines
is also very nice.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
You missed a new product
One of the hottest new products in this arena is Altiris' Software Virtualization Solution. You can read about it here: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1941829,00.asp" target="_newWindow">http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1941829,00.asp</a>
Posted by (1 comment )
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Not the same thing...
Altiris' product is quite different. It is essentially a wrapper of sorts to provide the same functionality as relocatable packages and loadable filesystem images in other systems.

SVS is peculiar to Windows because it doesn't already have a method for doing it, but it's also limited to Windows and the host environment provided. You couldn't run Vista-specific software under Win2K, for example, like you could using virtualization. Virtualization would permit you to run OS/X apps under WinXP, or OS/X apps under Linux, etc. Further, virtualization completely abstracts away the hardware and everything else so you are guaranteed to not have any issues with the host hardware, drivers, or environment.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
Doubling?
Having two OSs would likely make installation and running software more confusing then ever.

Most of the users have hard time working with more than single application at the same time - trying adding to the mess another OS would hardly improve anything.

Unless computers will learn to read user's mind...
Posted by Philips (400 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Missing the point...
The VMs are not for running the OS, but a
specific application. Basically, you start with
the application and take a pared-down
environment that is know to work with it.

The user would see the application, nothing else
(unless that's the way it was distributed). No
installers, just drag and drop the VM file and
click to run. Ultimately, it wouldn't matter if
you're running Linux, Windows, or Mac, just grab
the same VM image and run it -- completely self
contained.

That said, its currently only practical for
pretty large software packages. You're not
likely to distribute a VM that has your software
plus Windows -- far too big (maybe a smaller OS,
you can get Linux down to 2-3M if you need to).
This technology is currently very popular in the
server space. It won't spill over into user
space until there are some better toolkits for
assembling and testing custom-tuned VMs. The VM
method also incurs quite a bit of overhead
compared to native code, so you're not going to
have NOTEPAD.EXE deployed as a VM.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
An opening for Linux
This structure sounds like a way that the Linux crowd can finally get their product into the public consciousness--imagine having a software with an icon that lets you hide or expand an entire OS so the user can actually choose to use something other than Windows if they want to! It would be like Easter Eggs on dvd's. Many users would see something like this as a value-added feature if the particular Linux distribution were attractive and had some interesting features. People might even buy a particular software to get the OS or browser or other application that came with it, if advertised openly and marketed cleverly...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Windows 2003 R2
I read an article about the ESX Server from VMware. In this article it stated that the R2 Enterprise version of Win2k3 can be installed 4 times using 1 license within the same physical ESX server. The article was in WindowsITPro. I wonder why they don't mention it here.
Posted by ZeroJCF (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Miracle cure to a lot more things
Virtualization is going to fix a lot more problems like Outsourcing etc as well. Listen to what I have to say on my podcast (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://vlog.oraflame.com" target="_newWindow">http://vlog.oraflame.com</a>) about it.

Cheers

Tarry
My Blog: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://tarrysingh.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://tarrysingh.blogspot.com</a>
Posted by TarrySingh (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Prepackaged OS/Apps
With VMWare releasing the VMPlayer an interesting situation is in place.
If there isn't licensing issues (comments welcome  interested to know if VMWare do not allow distribution of images) then as per the article companies could provide a pre-packaged OS/App for people to use.
For Linux  Forget your LiveCD distributions. Just download the image and run it from VMPlayer. In that way you get all the advantages of a LiveCD, but with all the information held on your drive providing the ability to compare and contrast.
For new users this would be great. No messy install. All hardware configured correctly. I have used VMWare on a notebook running XP with a wireless adaptor and it passed it through without any problems. It was just seen as an Ethernet Adaptor. So, I didnt have to mess about with the Wrapper.

Assuming all images work with all configs and VMPlayer will do the translation then I think the LiveCD days are limited.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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