As they strive to conquer the cloud, virtualization vendors, such as VMware and Citrix have peddled their wares to today's service providers. But today, Parallels, a well-known face in the hosting world, is shipping a bare-metal hypervisor akin to VMware ESX and Citrix Systems' XenServer that includes management and scalability features designed from the get-go for multi-tenancy service provider environments.
While Parallels has a limited presence in enterprise IT, its Parallels Virtuozzo Containers is a hosting company mainstay, where the OS virtualization software can slice and dice a single Linux or Windows environment into hundreds of virtual private servers. By contrast, Parallels Server 4 Bare Metal is a traditional type-one hypervisor that allows multiple virtual machines (VMs) running different operating systems simultaneously on the same machine.
Containers-style virtualization is ideal for Web hosting, said Jack Zubarev, the president of Parallels' service provider division, but type-one hypervisors are a better fit for server consolidation, test and development, and disaster recovery scenarios. In these cases, "You want to preserve your entire environment," Zubarev said.
A unique bare-metal hypervisor
Out of the gate, Parallels Server 4 Bare Metal boasts impressive specs. With it, a single virtual machine can be assigned up to 12 virtual CPUs, 64 GB virtual RAM, 2 TB of virtual hard disk drives and 16 virtual network interface cards (NICs).
The Parallels bare-metal hypervisor also includes a truly unique feature: the ability to run containers natively on top of its virtual machine monitor, or VMM. But while that's something of a novelty, Zubarev said he did not expect Parallels partners to deploy the Parallels hypervisor in production with VMs and containers simultaneously.
Zubarev said Parallels would offer Parallels Server 4 Bare Metal to its existing 5,000 partners, for a list price of $5 per month per VM, with discounts of up to 40% available to its top-tier partners.
Parallels Server 4 Bare Metal also integrates with the company's management suite, Parallels Virtual Automation, which also works with Virtuzzo Containers. Highlights of Parallels Virtual Automation include strong self-service tools for end users, resource accounting and reporting, role-based permissions, and sweeping automation tools, Zubarev said.
As an example, Zubarev said that with Parallels Virtual Automation, an administrator could "in a couple of clicks" change the amount of allotted memory to all the virtual machines running on hosts.
The green field cloud market
Enterprise IT environments have already coalesced around VMware and Microsoft's Hyper-V, but the cloud computing market is still wide open, said Gary Chen, the research manager for enterprise virtualization software at IDC.
"It's so greenfield, no one's really established as the leader," Chen said.
Unlike VMware, which began in the enterprise, Parallels has strong roots in the service provider space, Chen said. "They definitely know what it means to be a cloud hosting provider; this is not a single-tenancy hypervisor."
But the new Parallels bare-metal hypervisor is an unproven technology that does not include many of the advanced features already available from VMware and XenServer, such as high availability and workload balancing (VMware's Distributed Resource Scheduler). How quickly Parallels can add these features will be key to its success.
"It's a lot easier to build a hypervisor today than it was before, because a lot of stuff has been offloaded in the chips," said Chen. "But it's still not an easy thing."
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