VirtualBox adds Live Migration – Why?

The team at Sun continue to update VirtualBox – 3 releases in 1 month.  Of these the 3.0.12 release (November 17) and the 3.1.2 release (December 17) were maintenance releases with bug-fixes, whereas the 3.1.0 release (November 30) was a fairly substantial release containing new features, including Live Migration.

Now that the Oracle is coming close to addressing the concerns of the EU regulator regarding MySQL it does look as though VirtualBox will become an Oracle product alongside Oracle VM. Oracle is ultimately making its money further up  the stack, and its virtualization strategy is about creating a complete environment for running its Applications suites, rather than driving virtualization as a revenue line. Oracle famously killed off another hypervisor, Virtual Iron, on acquisition and whilst the EU has managed to secure some guarantees for the future of mySQL, nothing has been negotiated for VirtualBox. Virtual Iron and VirtualBox were very different in their business model.  Virtual Iron used an Enterprise sales model to try and fail to take on VMware –  a meagre $3.5M of revenues in the year before acquisition, whereas VirtualBox is more equivalent to MySQL, an open source volume product with disappointing rates of monetization.

We still take the view that VirtualBox is primarily a desktop play, and that it’s role in the datacenter will always be limited, but it seems that at the moment, Sun doesn’t share this view.  In perhaps a last throw of the dice  before the Oracle corporate giant rationalizes it out of their  datacenter strategy, the VirtualBox team has slipped in a resolutely datacenter-focussed feature: live migration of VMs.  They call it Teleportation.The one stand-out feature is the ability to migrate amongst AMD and Intel architectures.

It is in Commercial and both the the free Open Source and Personal Use licences of VirtualBox, although quite why you would want live migration for personal use is unclear.  As a comparison, Live Migration is in the various free and non-free versions of Linux  KVM, part of the free Xen-derived products, XenServer and Oracle VM, and the paid-for products Microsoft Windows 2008 Server  Hyper-v (R2 onwards) and vSphere.  It is not available with VMWare ‘s free ESXi instead requires a license to use.

The problem is that in the datacenter you probably wouldn’t want to use VirtualBox live migration. There’s no tooling as such. It only runs from the command line.  It doesn’t propagate VM information – you have to configure both sides of the live migration to match each other. Doubtless these things can be fixed, but maybe Oracle will say “don’t bother” given that tooling exists for Oracle VM already.

We have now reached the point where the datacenter game is about tooling not hypervisor and without tooling this little hypervisor won’t compete.

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