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.
For starters, 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, says Clay Ryder, president of The Sageza Group. Sun Microsystems' Solaris 10 OS includes a virtualisation feature it calls Containers. Microsoft is expected to release a beta version of Windows Virtual Server in the first quarter of 2007 and ship it a year later.
That's good news: As virtualisation features become part of the hardware or the OS, software providers will have to offer useful extra features, Ryder says, such as automated new software testing or security patch management.
Virtual Iron introduced Version 3.1 of its virtualisation platform in December for a licence price of US$499 per socket — compared to $2875 per socket for a comparable VMware licence. XenSource also introduced new virtualisation products at sub-$1000 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.
Meanwhile, middleware vendor BEA Systems is making its own cost-cutting move. In the first half of 2007, BEA plans to release WebLogic Server Virtual Edition (WLS-VE), a version of its Java application server that includes Liquid VM--a BEA-specific Java Virtual Machine that lets Java applications run directly on a hypervisor without requiring an operating system to be present. This will let users substantially reduce the amount of computer power, lowering the hardware costs per application, says Guy Churchward, vice president and general manager of the Java Runtime Products Group at BEA Systems. Initially, Liquid VM will work only with VMware's ESX Server hypervisor.