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The case for chargeback and virtual appliances

One of the nice things about covering a hot topic like virtualization is that you get to talk to people who are really enthusiastic. Yesterday, Alex Bakman, founder and CEO of a new company called V-Kernel came to my office, and he was as fired up about the virtualization market as any vendor I’ve met in a while.

What V-Kernel has done so far is relatively straightforward. They’ve developed capacity and chargeback software that monitors the CPU, memory, network and disk resources consumed by VMware virtual machines, and maps those resources to a so-called business service – a grouping of VMs that are performing a business function, like “email” or “CRM.” From there, V-Kernel can generate chargeback reports.

Now, the idea of chargeback has always been nice in theory, but in my limited experience, things never really materialized. Bakman has an explanation. In the world of one-server-to-one-app distributed computing that virtualization is supplanting, chargeback was kind of silly, since resources weren’t shared, and it was easy to tell who owned what application. However, if you look at the mainframe – a massively shared resource – chargeback is alive and well. And when you look at today’s high-end x86 platforms, “I don’t care what you call them, they’re mainframes,” he said. As expensive shared resources, Bakman believes IT will move quickly to push back the cost of virtual infrastructure to those departments that are using them.

Virtualization also has the developer and independent software vendor (ISV) in Bakman all excited. Unlike previous systems management software he’s developed, the big thing that differentiates V-Kernel is that it’s delivered as a virtual appliance.

In V-Kernel’s case, that appliance includes a (stripped) Suse Linux operating system, Apache, Tomcat, MySQL, and a Java Ajax application server, all in 420MB that can be “dropped” right on any VMware host. For updates, the appliance includes one-button self-update feature that “calls home,” as it were, for any new security patches or code updates. And because it’s just a virtual machine, “it’s infinitely scalable,” Bakman said. To add more performance, just assign more memory or virtual CPUs to the VM.

The fact that V-Kernel runs Linux is important to data center managers because that’s the same reliable operating system that powers a lot of the other applications in the data center. Plus, writing the application to run on Linux instead of Microsoft sidesteps a lot of licensing fees. “If I were to ship it on a Microsoft OS, there would be licensing fees for every appliance I ship,” he said. Microsoft’s current licensing policies are already conspiring to turn smaller ISVs away developing for the Windows platform, he said.

Furthermore, the advent of Java/Ajax means that developers don’t need to give up any functionality to run over the Web. “Ajax is an absolute Microsoft killer,” Bakman said.

For now, V-Kernel is available only as a VMware virtual appliance, and as Bakman sees the market, there’s no reason to change that – for now. Over time, Bakman’s vision is to add more systems management appliances to V-Kernel’s bag of tricks. In the meantime, you can download a beta at

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Good article Alex. It should be noted that chargeback can be done within a Windows Server/Virtual Server environment, too. In fact, Microsoft's IT group does it. A representative spoke about rightsizing and chargeback here: Business reporting is done at the business level by collecting RAM, disk and networking data. And they publish a 1, 3, 5-year hosting cost analysis for the business units to compare/contrast costs of a VM versus physical machines in order to make better buying decisions.
It is an interesting dilemna for a methodology that is going to require a new set of models for charging and control. Of course I am only replying so I can take the opportunity to mention... Who seem to be a start up who will be operating in a similar arena. And I am bound to mention Who are involved with application streaming which already appears to address some of these issues and may well underpin the solution. Regards Camilla