Licensing Gives Linux the Edge over Windows in the Virtualization Battle

by Todd Ogasawara

There's been a lot of interesting product wars over the years: WordPerfect vs. Word, 1-2-3 vs. Excel, Harvard Presentation Manager vs. PowerPoint, Novell vs. Windows NT, Netscape vs. Internet Explorer, Palm OS vs. Windows Mobile, and the list goes on and on.

One of the current product battles taking shape is in server virtualization. And, like many past product confrontations, Microsoft's Hyper-V is the late-to-the-game underdog. VMware's ESX and Vmotion are the clear market and technology leaders right now. And, there are other viable virtualization hypervisor alternatives including Sun xVM, KVM, and Parallels Server.

However, it doesn't matter how good the underlying hypervisor is if you don't have any Guest OS to install on it because of licensing problems. It is an easy decision to use CentOS, Fedora, Ubuntu, or any of the Debian derivatives because there is licensing issue I can think of with those Linux distros. This is important both to end-users and virtual appliance builders. And, it gives the LAMP stack an advantage over WAMP, WIMP, and WISP stacks for the same two groups.

Licensing issues are not limited to the Windows operating system itself. Virtualization has moved beyond simply virtualizing server stacks. In the past year we've see a huge movement towards virtualizing desktops and even individual applications. Both Microsoft and VMware have moved aggressively in this space buying technology to fill the gaps between virtualization tiers. But, still it is complicated, from a licensing point of view, to decide when you are able virtualize Windows Vista, Word, Exchange Server, and other licensed Microsoft products. Commercial Open Source products can create similar licensing issues. However, there is usually the option to use the lesser supported Community Editions of these kinds of products (MySQL, for example) for testing and development, for example.

All software firms with commercially licensed products need to resolve how to allow their customers to run their products in virtual environments.

Microsoft Port 25 virtualization related blog items


2008-08-08 06:42:15
Good points all. However in terms of shake out the first round is going to be the innees vs the outees. The innees are those Virt products who are associated with a given OS. Outees are everybody else.

The reason is an old song that has been played many times in the IT space. Why pay for something if it is included for free in somebody else's product? The market has realized that fact. Just look at VMWare's stock its cratered 20% and they are definately an outee. The folks on the 'in' are Hyper-V[MS], VirtualBox[Sun], Xen[Novell]. Everybody else is 'out'. That is not to say that something like a Parallels can't make it. Like say as part of the Mac space. But if Apple comes along and develops their own VM stack then Parallels is vulnerable.

That shake has to occur first before many of your finer points are resolved.