How to Virtualize Servers: Operating System vs. Dedicated Software

For most users, the question isn’t whether to introduce virtualization in their networks, but how to virtualize so as to cause the least disruption.  A new white paper from IDEAS International, a leading supplier of IT market research, considers the question of whether enterprises would do better virtualizing their servers on a software platform dedicated solely for virtualization, like the ESX Server from VMware, or on a standard operating system, like Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008, which incorporates the Hyper-V virtualization technology, or Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). 

Their conclusion:  “…using established operating systems to virtualize workloads offers a variety of benefits related to compatibility, robustness, functionality, security and manageability issues such as patch management.” 

The paper states that virtual implementations like Hyper-V and Xen-based SLES 10 from Novell fundamentally diverge from VMware’s approach in the way that they manage the hypervisor layer, and in the way that they process I/O – two of the operational aspects that are most critical in virtualized infrastructures. The paper states:


“The approach used by SLES 10 and Windows Server 2008 – virtualizing I/O through real device drivers in a standard operating system image, rather than in the hypervisor itself – offers significant benefits…Using standard operating systems to host virtual machines also allows users to take advantage of some rich functionality available in those operating systems…” in the areas of storage management and high availability (HA) clustering.


Additionally the report states, “In the design of their solutions, Novell and Microsoft are taking advantage of several factors in their favor, including the ability to directly integrate virtualization with other critical operating system functions, and the introduction of virtualization hardware in the newest x86 processors.” 


The paper concludes that these standard OS attributes will lower the barriers to adopting virtualization in many organizations, and could become increasingly valuable as users start to drive virtualization technology directly into IT infrastructures.

The IDEAS white paper, titled “Deploying Virtual Infrastructure on Standard Operating Systems,” is available at