New virtualisation savings possible

In 2006, many enterprise IT groups saw the potential in virtualisation, rushed to consolidate servers and subsequently propelled VMware software to a market-leading spot. Now its dominance is under attack.

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In 2006, many enterprise IT groups saw the potential in virtualisation, rushed to consolidate servers and subsequently propelled VMware software to a market-leading spot.

As 2007 begins, VMware's prices are under attack, just as more CIOs look to virtualisation to control server and storage sprawl and tame data centre power costs.

VMware rivals XenSource and Virtual Iron Software have launched new open-source alternatives, undercutting VMware on price. Also, new processors, such as IBM's Power 5, and upcoming Power 6 chips, and new operating systems have virtualisation capabilities built in, negating the need for some additional software, said Clay Ryder, president of analyst The Sageza Group. Sun Microsystems' Solaris 10 OS includes a virtualisation feature it calls “containers”. And Microsoft is expected to release a beta version of Windows Virtual Server in the first quarter of 2007 and ship it a year later.

This activity is good news: As virtualisation features become part of the hardware or the OS, software providers will have to offer useful extra features, Ryder said, such as automated new software testing or security patch management.

Virtual Iron introduced Version 3.1 of its virtualisation platform in December for a license price of $499 (£255) per socket – compared to $2,875 per socket for a comparable VMware licence. XenSource also introduced new virtualisation products at sub-$1,000 prices.

Both XenSource and Virtual Iron build their proprietary products on top of the open-source Xen platform for virtualisation hypervisors. (A hypervisor lets a computer run multiple operating systems at once.) VMware's products are not based on open source.

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