Virtualization Software Overview

1. Introduction

Hello World !!

Today, i would like to provide an overview of the Virtualization market. The virtualization will probably transform the way organizations will manage their IT infrastructure. This might also change the market of Operating system and the way the software will be distributed to the customers.

Virtualization can cover different concepts and approaches. In this post, we will focus on the hardware virtualization. Hardware virtualization consists of converting a physical machine into a virtual machine. I’ve got often the question about which virtualization solutions are available on the market.

In this post, I will just list some of these softwares. future post will probably focuses on 2 or 3 specific products.

2. Virtualization solution summary

VMWARE Solution (

VMWARE is probably the most famous virtualization solution. VMWARE offers a selection of solution that can be used by end users and developpers but also provide a suite for production environment.

1. VMWare Workstation : not free, run on windows and linux

2. VMWARE Server : free software but require registration. run on windows and linux

3. Virtual Infrastructure : Not free, combination of multiple software (ESX Server, VC,VCB,…)

4.  ESXi software can be downloaded freely and placed on a USB stick. ESXi is really a shrinked version of ESX software and run without the need of the full Operating System. 

VMWARE has strict hardware requirements. so it’s not easy to test. you need really specific hardware.

Microsoft Solution (

Another known actor on the market is now Microsoft. Microsoft is trying to reduce the gap with VMWARE by introducing its own hypervisor solution. The product is quite new and we might have to wait for the the next release before having a really interesting solution. The big advantage that Microsoft has is the price (the MS Solution is cheaper than VMWare), and the fact that the solution run on windows environment. Unlike VMWARE, you do not need to learn linux commands. I think the solution will be accepted more easily by Windows Administrators because they will have a familiar working environment.

1 . Virtual PC 2007 : no cost,

2. Virtual Server 2005 : no cost

3. Hyper-V (Win2008) : the RTM version is available since end of June 2008 and you need a 64-bit operating system. The only hardware requirement is to have AMD-V or Intel-VT CPU.

These software only run on Windows boxes. If you want to run linux Operating system on top of Hyper-V, you have to check if it’s working or not.  The only official distribution supported on Hyper-V would be Linux Suse

Citrix (

Citrix has also started with the hardware virtualization software. the solution is based on the Xen open source project. Citrix provide also other software that are aligned with the virtualization strategy. You can download freely the XenSource Express but again you need specific hardware and the processor needs to support virtualization (Intel-VT or AMD-V)

Virtual Iron (

Update : Virtual Iron has been bought by Oracle (if i remember) and the product has been discontinued

Virtual Iron is a new comer into the market. The solution is targeted mainly to Small Medium Businesses. The Solution is also based on the Xen Hypervisor. The solution seems really nice but i never had the chance to test it. Again, you will need hardware with Intel-VT or AMD-V in order to be able to test it.

VirtualBox (

SUN has entered the Virtualization market by purchasing a less known virtualization software solution called VirtualBox. However,  this product has gained in popularity because

  1. Run on top of Windows or Linux
  2. Run Windows or Linux Guest Operating system
  3. Can run 64-bit Operating System (as long as the hardware have Virtualization technology enabled even if your Host operating system is running 32-bit
  4. Because it can run multiple virtual disks format. Virtualbox can run Vmdk, vdi, or vhd files

This product is still free to use (for personal use). Commercial License are also available for this product


KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) is a full virtualization solution for Linux. Hardware requirements is again the same : you need to have Intel-VT or AMD-V to use it. The interesting point is that the virtualization solution is included in the linux kernel. The kernel component of KVM is included in mainline Linux, as of 2.6.20.

KVM is open source software.  Linux Companies such as Red Hat are using such technology in their Virtualization solution and offering.


What a great piece of software !!!

I was looking for a cheap (and possibly free virtualization) easy to use solution. In my test lab or in customer’s test lab the main product were virtual PC, Virtual Server and VMWARE Fusion. At home, i was looking to install KVM solution then Hyper-V server came out. That was free and not to difficult to use. This software was a good option for me. Then, I’ve found a really interesting solution based on KVM and OpenVZ technology. 

The software is called PROXMOX VE (i know a strange name) but the software is really easy to use. You perform the management through a web interface (not sluggish at all). Using this software, you can use the local disks (no SAN/NAS infrastructured needed) and still have the possibility to implement a cluster to provide high availability. You can also perform livre migration of virtual machines between nodes    

This is one of my favourite virtualization solution at the moment. These guys have put toegether open source technology and are providing a nice, easy to use virtualization software solution. This software can run Windows or Linux Virtual machines and the new release offer additional options for storage (you can implement iscsi, and NFS stores if needed). 

I’m using this product in my test lab and so far, i haven’t got any issues.  The only hardware requirement you need to fully use the product is to have AMD-V or INTEL-VT processor   

I already think to post more information about this solution in my next posts.

3. Final remarks

It’s a pitty that most of the virtualization solutions requires special hardware. I’m assuming that with time workstations and servers will only provide CPU supporting virtual technologies.

Another negative point is that all the software providers (except Virtualbox) are using their own extensions for the Virtual Machines. (*.VHD, *.VMDK,*.Q2cow,…). You can still convert a virtual machine (or physical servers) into a specific format but that time consuming. In a perfect world, it would be nice to have a unique format for the VMs so the image could be reuseable with any other solution.

Till Next time

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