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Linux users: Xen, VMware, or Virtual Server?

In Monday’s newsletter column, I included a question to our Linux users: Do you prefer Xen, VMware or Virtual Server, and why?

It’s only Monday afternoon, but I’ve gotten some interesting responses. Chris, the CIO for Oxford Archaeology: Explorying the Human Journey, wrote:

In response to your question, we prefer VirtualBox, which offers a degree of flexibility that only VMware VI3 gets close to. Without the entry costs! We currently are working with VMware server, and a lack of a Linux client for VMware VI3, along with its MS SQL dependency, prevented a planned migration to VI3. VirtualBox is the young upstart on the block; the list of features that it is currently lacking in comparison with ESX grows shorter at an alarming rate, it is cross platform, independent of hardware extensions (but can benefit from them), high performance, and remarkably quick to get to grips with.

David of Code No Evil, LLC wrote:

I prefer VMware because it’s a non-free commercial product with support.  Microsoft, for example, doesn’t even list in their support site VPC 2K7 as a product.  As for Xen, I’m rarely a proponent of the OSS community.  As for VMware, my current support case just became a known bug # 154399.  Nice to know that VMware was willing to admit a fault in their platform and intends on fixing it.

I asked him for clarification on the bug. Here’s what he said:

I am running Vista x64 on a Mac Pro.  My intent was run XP off the hard drive from my old machine (a Dell Precision 340) in a USB enclosure using VirtualPC 2K7.  VPC crashed every time I attempted to access the virtual drive (mapped to the physical drive).  Support is non-existent for VPC 2K7 because Microsoft doesn’t even list it as a product at the support website.  I even reached out to the  “Virtual PC Guy”0, but he was no help either.  At this point, I figured that I should try VMware Workstation.  At least if it didn’t work, I could open a support incident and I’d get some help.  Well, long story short, there is a permissions issue that despite going back and forth with VMware tech support (in India none-the-less) was irresolvable even in VMware Workstation.   The support overall was not bad.  A few times I had to send an extra email to get them to wake up, but all-in-all it was satisfactory.  The rep even called me because the issue became too difficult to talk about on the phone.  Now, the real test is to see how long it will be before a fix is released.  I would gather that it will  be soon because this bug precludes anyone from using a VMware virtual drive instance mapped to a physical drive on Vista.  I would, as a developer, classify this as critical defect.

Richard of OnX Enterprise Solutions Inc. wrote in suggesting Virtuozzo.

Chris, a system architect, wrote in with his preference for Xen:

I prefer Xen as it’s free on Red Hat 5 or SuSE 10 for Linux environments.  EMC ESX rocks though if customers can afford with its small Linux Red Hat kernel and the various tools for both Linux and Windows environments.  MS Virtual Server is better for test labs and with Microsoft platforms.  I had a very bad experience with MS Virtual Server and NetWare systems although that’s another OS.

Possibly with improvements in MS Virtual Server there might be a point where if it’s free and if MS really does support Red Hat and especially SuSE underneath it that if it’s free with MS licenses that it could move up within the server marketplace.

More to come. In the meantime, what are your thoughts, readers?

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Well, you didn't put any context with the question. It all depends on what you need to do. For enterprise, there is really only one player right now: VMware ESX Server. Its management is great and when combined with HP blades, it is incredible in how many VMs per core you can get. VMotion-need I say more. But Virtuozzo is incredible-and beats out ESX for high I/O loads. It also boils down to whether you want the guest OS to be modified or even aware of the virtual infrastructure. I think for many projects, you want the guest to think it is on real hardware-especially for Windows-based systems but also for Linux. For workstations, the options mainly boil down to what you need. I run VMware Workstation because I like the many features-especially many levels of snapshots and the integration with ACE is great. There are many more players now that's for sure which is always a good thing. I don't even have time to evaluate all the offerings and I spend 100% of my time on solutions for virtualization projects. I've been meaning to get around to VirtualBox as that looks interesting. I'm not sure why you would include MS Virtual Server in the choice since it doesn't run on Linux.