Open virtualization gaining ground despite challenges

by Sohini Bagchi    May 09, 2013

os virtualization

The awareness and adoption of open virtualization solutions is on the rise, despite several challenges. A recent Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA) research shows that although the technology is yet to reach the maturity level of the proprietary solutions offered by VMware and Microsoft, a growing number of enterprises are showing interest in open source virtualization solutions.

While some in the industry believe that cost is the key motivator for enterprises, especially in the mid-market segment to opt for this platform, many believe that open source virtualization enables them to modify the source code and accordingly help them fine tune their IT requirement to suit their specific business needs. The report states that over nearly two-third of the enterprises believe that open virtualization solutions offer them innovative ways to develop and enhance the utilization and economics of their IT infrastructure.

“Open source server virtualization can help businesses develop new security functions, for example, in case of an attack, an embedded script can stop the compromised virtual machine instantly and replace it with another machine, without affecting with the users,” mentions Phil Dawson, vice president at Gartner in a recent blog published on Techtarget.

Currently KVM, Xen and virtual box are the most popular options in the open virtualization domain. Citrix has been one of the brains behind the open source server virtualization movement since its purchase of XenSource in 2007. Similarly Red Hat and Oracle also got involved in the open source virtualization movement with products like Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM) server virtualization and Oracle VM. Although some of the virtualization products were not stable in the early stages, by upgrading features, the vendors ensured that organizations can maximize the performance of their data center hardware. Recently, IBM’s shift to open source cloud architecture is also considered by analysts as a fresh effort to create some momentum in the market.

Loopholes remain

However, there are several shortcomings of open source in virtualization that are dissuading enterprises in adopting open source virtualization within the organization. A recent survey by Opsview sees a lack of traction by open source virtualization technologies such as KVM and Xen in recent times. The research found out only 12 per cent of enterprises are currently interested or are planning to deploy open source virtualization solutions, when compared to 64 per cent of the respondents that identified commercial virtualization vendors such as VMWare and Microsoft as their preferred vendors.

Tom Callway, senior analyst at Opsview believes cost is a complex issue when it comes to the adoption of this technology. Although the software is free, there is a concern of maintenance and support. Although companies like red Hat and Citrix provide some technical support that comes at a very fundamental level. Largely customers are expected to support the systems themselves.  He also points out that the increasing annual licensing costs for open source is also another hindrance to its adoption. Many believe that in the near future, these costs will become comparable to that of proprietary solutions.

At the same time, there is a need for the right staff to handle the open source virtualization environment, says Dawson as most companies have Microsoft Windows-savvy tech administrators who are used to traditional troubleshooting and have experience with commercial products. For open source products, it is important to explore them further, learn, innovate and share to be on the right track.

Dawson notes that vendors such as Citrix, IBM and Red Hat are keeping up with the open source momentum and are striving to create large-scale awareness in the virtualization marketplace. At the moment, however, enterprises are more comfortable going with commercial solutions.