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SWsoft strokes Apple with Parallels Server beta

Into the hypervisor fray

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SWsoft has issued the sort of anticipated beta release of a hypervisor-style server virtualization product - Parallels Server.

We say sort of anticipated because it's not at all clear how SWsoft's latest play will be received by the market. To date, the company has focused on selling server virtualization software (Virtuozzo) that relied on so-called containers where a customer can run many virtual systems on top of a single copy of an operating system. Now, SWsoft hopes to play in the more mainstream hypervisor-based part of the virtualization market already packed full of options from companies such as VMware, Citrix (XenSource) and Virtual Iron. (Microsoft will soon ship a hypervisor-based product as well.)

SWsoft - which plans to change its name to Parallels - has tried to separate itself from competitors with the beta version of Parallels Server by emphasizing support for systems running Mac OS X and the ability to pick from a pair of hypervisor models.

"Parallels Server is the first virtualization solution designed to run on Apple hardware, including Mac Pros and Xserves, and the first to run multiple copies of Mac OS X Server v10.5 Leopard on a single Apple computer," the company tells us.

The focus on Apple, which includes support for fresh hardware, complements SWsoft's love for Mac desktops and notebooks through its existing, popular Parallels Desktop software.

On the hypervisor front, we're told,

Parallels Server can be installed using the Parallels lightweight hypervisor, in which virtual machines run in tandem with a primary operating system, or "bare metal’, in which virtual machines run independently and are not dependent on a host operating system to function properly. At installation, users can choose to load Parallels Server in either the lightweight hypervisor mode or bare-metal mode. Parallels Server is the only virtualization product of any kind to afford users the flexibility to choose their implementation during installation.

Overall, Parallels Server supports more than 50 guest operating systems, stretching from Windows Server 2003 and 2008 to various flavors of Linux and Sun's Solaris.

The SWsoft server code can support up to 64GB of memory on the host system, allows multiple users to tap the same virtual machine, includes support for the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface in virtual machines and will work with Intel's existing VT technology (hardware-based virtual machine support) and its more experimental VT-d. In fact, SWsoft claims to be the first vendor to support Intel's VT for Directed I/O (VT-d) and thinks it can show a performance edge over rivals by using the technology.

Down the road, SWsoft wants to give customers a way to manage both container- and hypervisor-based sets of virtualization software from one spot. In addition, it's looking to let customers manage virtualization software from other vendors such as Citrix and Microsoft.

The Parallels Server beta program is a private affair, which you can try and bust into here. The production software should ship by mid-year. ®

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