In September, at VMworld 2008, Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware Inc. promised to run VirtualCenter, VMware's virtualization management software, on Linux and package it as a virtual appliance. The news elicited cheers from the audience last month but the company remains noncommittal about when the appliance and a cross-platform VMware Infrastructure (VI) client interface will be forthcoming.
Srinivas Krishnamurti, VMware's director of product management and marketing, declined to commit to a release date for a Linux-based VirtualCenter appliance or a cross-platform VI Client because of the extensive development required, including replacement of Windows libraries and testing. But the Linux appliance is "high on the list based on customer feedback.
"A lot of customers talked to us about this," he said. "The project is fast forward. [The Linux appliance] will become the preferred way to deploy vCenter [Virtual Center] in the future."Linux-based VirtualCenter to ease management
Like its Windows-based predecessor, the Linux-based VirtualCenter appliance will be called vCenter and sold at the same price, he said. The Linux appliance simply offers an alternative platform, he said.
The Linux version of vCenter will combine Linux-based JeOS (which stands for "Just enough Operating System,"; where JeOS is a stripped-down OS that includes only what's needed) and vCenter management software, Krishnamurti said. And to simplify maintenance and troubleshooting, VMware provides support for both the virtualization management and OS components of the appliance, including relevant updates and patches, Krishnamurti said.
"Customers won't have to configure the appliance so they can get started much quicker" Krishnamurti said. "And VMware will be responsible for it. The appliance will be much easier to manage as a unit."
Systems administrators will no longer be faced with the task of assembling multiple components from different vendors and getting them to work together, he added. They'll have "one throat to choke" because VMware will support the entire appliance, he said.
In addition to the vCenter management server, VMware will be developing a cross-platform VI client interface for managing VMs that will run on Linux, Windows, Macintosh or even iPhone, he said.
The bottom line: No Windows licenses will be required to run the vCenter management server or a VI client, Krishnamurti said.VMware heeds the community call
For quite some time, VMware's Linux customers have asked for a Windows-free virtualization management option, often via a thread on the VMware Communities blog and listed under the VI3, Linux Client please topic, which runs an impressive 23 pages. p>One VMware user early in the discussion said he was "floored" that VMware offered no Linux version of the VI client. A chorus of others concurred, pleading for VMware to enable them to run VMware's virtualization client without Windows.
"Just adding my voice to the call for a Linux client," added another user . "Maybe VMware will take notice if enough of us make enough noise."
Another wrote: "Some of us are a Linux-only shop. In fact, the fact that I have to run Windows to run Linux is a joke. Come on, folks. I pay good money for your product. How about a little something?"
After the VMworld announcement last month, Maxwell Powers, an infrastructure engineer at New York-based Touchstone Health HMO Inc., wrote that the VMworld initiative affirmed that the community discussion had succeeded in communicating its need for a Linux client.
"That's awesome," wrote Powers about the planned Linux VirtualCenter appliance. "I guess threads like this do work, or at least this helped VMware know what their paying customers want."
Powers, who is responsible for both VMware and Linux operations, indicated that his mixed-environment shop is heavily vested in both products but that the Windows-only management approach created additional hurdles in a mixed production environment.
In an email, "I think [a Linux appliance] is a fantastic idea," he wrote. "This eliminates that worthless, extra Windows server license."
Frank Korpershoek, a longtime IT consultant who works extensively with Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise, said that VMware's Linux-based management tools are "great news" and "long overdue."
With Microsoft belatedly launching its own Hyper-V virtualization product, perhaps VMware has finally awoken to the competitive threat of Microsoft and recognized that it needs to run on Linux as well, he said.
"It's quite possible that a lot of companies will choose familiarity [with Microsoft] over quality," Korpershoek said. "With this attitude, VMware has no other choice than to make sure they have an open platform, are easy to connect to every platform and to manage from every platform. If they don't, VMware will be abandoned by both sides."