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Virtualization offers considerable benefits to an IT organization. If an organization wants to adopt this technology it has three choices available in the market.

1. Hardware Specific Vendors

They are hardware manufacturers who provide virtualization software that enables better use of their hardware. Unfortunately, this approach allows the software to be used only on hardware from that manufacturer. For organizations that use hardware from multiple vendors, this is clearly undesirable, since it presents the need to run multiple virtualization products, which increases infrastructure complexity and reduces operational efficiency, thereby raising costs. Example – IBM

2. Independent Software Vendors (ISV)

Software from independent vendors is better as they can run on hardware of different manufacturers. Thus a consistent virtualization infrastructure can be developed in organization.But there are many disadvantages also. First, reliance on a single vendor creates dependency on the vendor or vendor lock-in that is end user is bounded with the vendor product’s decisions and time frames. For example if vendor decides to retire the software early then user will have no choice than to update the software. Also if user wants a specific feature to meet its business requirement then the feature will be added according to the development pace of vendor organization.Secondly, there are many hardware innovations being carried out in the IT industry which helps to increase the efficiency of virtualization for example new networking technologies and better hardware support from Intel and Siemens. These integrations will also be done at the pace of vendor.Finally, ISV products are associated with high costs diminishing the attractiveness of the technology. So many organizations will shy away from using virtualization in less critical applications like testing or in pilot implementation of a business application.Examples- VMware, Swsoft, Microsoft.

3. Open Source Vendors

Open source virtualization products can give significant benefits as compared to ISV’s. These benefits can be characterized as (mentioned in [3]) :

A. Rapid Evolution of Technology

In proprietary software a single vendor controls the code of the product. Thus only limited numbers of people are allowed to make enhancements to the product thus stunting its evolution. In comparison open source products welcome participation from large pool of contributors. Thus new ideas and technology can be incorporated more rapidly than their proprietary counterpart.

B. Inclusion in the Operating System

Proprietary software are designed so that they can be sold separately, that is they cannot be integrated with the OS. While Open Source software can be integrated with OS kernel. This integration offers various advantages like cost reduction and maintenance of only single product is required.

C. Lack of Vendor Lock-In

Open source software by its very nature reduces vendor lock-in. The source code for every open source product is available for any user to examine, modify, and redistribute. This means that should a user be dissatisfied with an open source vendor, the user can terminate their relationship with the vendor and look to other avenues for development and support for the product. These other avenues can include other vendors or other members of the product community.

D. Community

Community is one of the most impressive aspects of the open source. Consisting of developers, users and other members of product ecosystem like hardware manufacturers, the community provides a rich resource for learning, support and collaboration.Community provides for a broad range of users to contribute their knowledge and experience to the product. In addition to code members can even provide bug reports, tutorials and technical support. Thus a community can help a product grow its base more rapidly.

E. Cost

Last but not the least is the cost advantage which open source provides over proprietary software. Because previous virtualization products have been an add-on product having their own licensing cost users has to find additional budget to adopt them. Further to reduce cost IT organizations try to maximize number of virtual machines on a single server thus risking the probability of hardware failure. Thus the benefits of virtualization are cancelled out by disadvantages of proprietary software. In comparison open source gives full freedom to use the product.Examples- Xen, Qemu, User Mode Linux.

Thus we can see that open source virtualization provides multitude of benefits as compared to independent software vendors.

Go Back:Virtualization and Open Source

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