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SWsoft prepares for psychotic server episode

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Virtualization software maker SWsoft has scheduled its bout with multiple personality disorder to take place in 2008.

Early next year, SWsoft will introduce the production version of Parallels Server - the upmarket complement to today's Parallels Desktop most often used to run Windows applications on Macs. The Server product, like software from VMware, XenSource and others, will rely on a hypervisor layer to manage multiple operating systems running on a single physical server. And it's that hypervisor which makes SWsoft mental.

Over the past few years, SWsoft has pushed another server-side virtualization product called Virtuozzo that runs counter to the hypervisor clan. Virtuozzo lets an administrator slice up a single operating system into many "containers" rather than running numerous operating systems on a single server. SWsoft has argued that containers provide a more efficient means of virtualization.

The Virtuozzo product has proved successful in attracting service providers that run lots of lightweight systems for web and application serving. In addition, Sun Microsystems with its own Solaris Containers has confirmed this un-hypervisor approach to virtualization.

Now, however, SWsoft must celebrate both techniques, and it's doing so in the expected manner.

Benjamin Rudolph, director of corporate communications at SWsoft, told us that Parallels Server will be aimed at smaller shops, and, of course, the untapped Apple XServe market. So, it will initially be more of a play for companies just getting started with virtualization.

You would expect such an approach given that VMware and XenSource have far more mature hypervisor-based plays.

Rudolph noted that the desktop product sells for $80 a pop, and SWsoft "will aim to make things affordable" with the server product as well.

SWsoft plans to craft a console able to manage both Virtuozzo and Parallels systems from a single place and to shift virtual instances between the platforms, which sounds like a great concept to us. Analysts such as Dan Olds at Gabriel Consulting have long argued that many customers will want both containers- and hypervisor-based virtualization products to handle different tasks. At the moment, only SWsoft and Sun seem on the track to provide centralized management for such scenarios.

Longer term, SWsoft wants that same console to manage virtual machines from VMware, XenSource and others.

A public beta for Parallels Server should kick off "in the next month or so" and a proper launch will follow "a few months after that."

In the next couple of weeks, customers will find a public beta of Virtuozzo 4.0.

The upgrade from today's Version 3.5 will show some nice high-end tools such as support for Windows Server 2003 and Red Hat clustering technology. In addition, a revamped graphical interface provides new options for grouping systems, which makes it easier to keep track of lots of boxes.

Customers should find about 50 new features in all.

There's data on the beta here.

The software should ship in production form "in the next couple of months." ®

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