Citrix Systems is developing a set of Open Virtual Machine (OVM) format tools that will let virtualized applications jump across different hypervisors.
Dubbed Project Kensho, the tools will be released as a technical preview for download by the end of this quarter. The code allows pre-configured virtual applications (viz. virtual appliances) to run across Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, and VMware ESX hypervisors.
Citrix reckons Kensho will help companies handle a mix of virtulization software in their data centers. That's something Citrix says will become more common as x86 virtualization becomes mainstream. It's also a kindly gesture to Microsoft, a long-time partner of Citrix and a newly arrived combatant in the serious server virtualization space. Add this altogether, and you find Citrix trying to get a foot in the door of shops currently running the market leader, VMware.
Although Citrix paints the project as hypervisor independent, there's currently no word about support for Oracle, Red Hat, and Sun virtualization platforms. (We put that in to be polite.)
The OVF specification was originally penned by Citrix (or rather XenSource before it was acquired) and VMware with contributions from Microsoft, IBM, HP, and Dell. The format was submitted to the Distributed Management Task Force in 2007, which accepted the draft proposal.
OVF unites the three virtualization platforms together in an XML package that holds all the necessary installation and configuration parameters. This allows any virtualization house that implements the standard to run hypervisor-agnostic virtual machines.
According to VMware, its own file format VMDK differs in that it only encodes a single virtual disk from a virtual machine. VMDK does not contain information about the virtual hardware of the machine. In contrast, the OVF format provides a complete specification of the virtual machine. ®
Kensho is a Buddhist term for glimpsing enlightenment by perceiving your true nature. It's often used to describe an initial awakening to the essence of the mind and perceiving one's self as impermanent and ever-changing.
We assume Citrix doesn't intend for the project to live up to the title, as ISV employees who shed earthly attachments and break free from the eternal wheel of Samsara on a journey to enlightenment tend to neglect computer work.
Case in point: The Indian emperor Ashoka the Great (304 BC-232 BC): Not a big player on the x86 virtualization scene. ®