Virtuozzo developed the first commercially available container technology in 2001. Today, this technology is being used by over 450 service providers, ISVs and enterprises. Virtuozzo keeps working on innovation in areas ranging from industry-leading virtualized object storage to cloud-optimized Linux distributions to groundbreaking container migration technologies. Alex Fine, CEO of Virtuozzo answered our questions.
Could you please give us a general update on Virtuozzo? What you’ve been focusing on in the past year?
This year has been anything but typical for all of us. As a business, we are very fortunate to have seen quite a lot of growth, as have our partners and customers – this is attributed to the acceleration of digital transformation and increased web presence for many businesses that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. We accelerated our growth 20%+ in 2020, extended partnerships with dozens of existing partners in addition to dozens of new partners. We are also growing our global footprint and adding new team members, expanding all aspects of our business.
From a product focus, a quick overview might be helpful:
Virtuozzo has been in the virtualization software business for 21 years. Our technology enables service providers’ infrastructure services for end-users, which are primarily small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Our flagship product, Virtuozzo Hybrid Server, provides high-efficiency virtualization to hosting service providers. By providing higher density with the same level of isolation of workloads, hosting providers gain improved cost performance and higher profit. Hosting providers have been our long-standing customer segment, and remain a crucial focus for us.
More recently, we added an additional product to our portfolio, Virtuozzo Hybrid Infrastructure, which is a hyperconverged infrastructure solution. With this addition, we expanded our market reach into the broader service provider community. Virtuozzo Hybrid Infrastructure is an excellent fit for managed service providers (MSPs) and cloud service providers (CSPs). Over the past two years, we have gained significant traction in this segment by offering a unique, ready-to-use, cost-efficient, private, and public cloud enablement solution.
We are excited to bring two additional products to the market this year. : Virtuozzo Linux, a free and open-source alternative to CentOS. Finally, Virtuozzo Hybrid Cloud, our end-to-end managed cloud offering for MSPs. More to come on both of these.
Tell us about Virtuozzo’s success with hosting providers and how you’re working with them to co-create the future of hosting.
Virtuozzo has been working with hosting service providers (HSPs) since its inception in 2001, and we have continued to develop our products to meet the particular needs of these service providers ever since. We are proud to count over 35% of the world’s leading HSPs as Virtuozzo partners today.
Our value proposition is simple – to provide the highest quality, most cost-efficient virtualization to hosting providers. We accomplish this by investing in a rigorous product development schedule, attracting the brightest, expert software engineers, and maintaining a close-knit relationship with innovative hosting service provider.
Virtuozzo system containers provide superior density over any hypervisor, even open open-source, which is our main competition in this segment. Many of our new hosting provider partners have seen a 30-50 percent decrease in total cost of ownership (TCO) versus their in-house open source-based solution. It’s a significant difference, mind-blowing in many instances! We refer to all of our customers, partners; their success is our success. We work together to create solutions that meet the needs of end customers while maintaining cost-efficiency.
That is the essence of what we mean when we say we co-create the future of hosting. We are in a pivotal time right now to help define that future – innovative hosting providers who want to continue to grow their business gain much more than virtualization technology from us. They gain the business expertise and strategic planning knowledge that we have added to our team. There’s never been a better time to define the future of the hosting business, together with Virtuozzo.
What do you think about Red Hat’s CentOS decision, did you anticipate it and what do you think about the community’s reaction?
Red Hat’s decision was somewhat of a surprise to us, and especially to our hosting provider partners. CentOS is the most used Linux distribution inside our containers. Though it was not expected, we are always ready for these decisions and are prepared for this one. Virtuozzo software has been built on our fork of RHEL’s build and configuration (VzLinux) for nearly 20 years. What we’re doing now is offering the solution to the broader market as a standalone Linux OS, that can be run in any environment, designed to support all standard Linux applications.
One additional concern we have heard from the community is that the initial announcement was regarding the end-of-life only for CentOS 8, but there is no guarantee that it will not be announced for CentOS 7 as well. Fortunately, in the Linux ecosystem and open source community, there are always people who will step in and close the gap, just like we are doing with Virtuozzo Linux.
Competition is high to replace CentOS, what do you think about AlmaLinux and Rocky Linux?
Competition is always good. One of the biggest challenges in the Linux ecosystem is fragmentation and splintering. There are niches for any Linux distribution, and this is no exception. VzLinux is specifically designed and optimized for running Containers, Virtual Machines, and Bare Metal servers. Our focus is to deliver the best experience for hosting service providers.
AlmaLinux is similar to VzLinux; it is a 1:1 clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux supported by a commercial vendor. They have experience building a commercial Linux distribution based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux sources. However, a Linux community-driven open source project is challenging and very new for AlmaLinux.
Comparatively, Virtuozzo has 20 years of experience in rebuilding Red Hat sources. We have successfully created open open-source and community-driven projects such as OpenVZ, CRIU, and P.Haul – plus an established track record of building commercial products based on open source.
Rocky Linux, on the other hand, is a purely community-driven Red Hat clone. However, it is currently not clear who will support them with infrastructure or develop build system and autotests for build validation. This presents risks that they cannot adopt patches as fast as Red Hat publishes them, which is important for security fixes.
How does Virtuozzo Linux distinguish itself from its competitors?
VzLinux will be available in three open open-source flavors (Containers, VMs and Bare-Metal) and one commercial flavor (support and certification). It will be supported as a guest operating system under different hypervisors (Virtuozzo and KVM) with templates in hyperscaler marketplaces plus a ready-to-use utility to upgrade on-the-fly from CentOS 8 to VzLinux 8 and the possibility to convert CentOS 7 directly to VzLinux 8.
For years, VzLinux has been a base Operating System for OpenVz and our commercial products. Additionally, it was used as a guest operating system for containers and virtual machines. With our years of experience in the field, we have all the required skills, infrastructure, and knowledge and have consistently released our version of VzLinux ahead of CentOS.
What advantages does VzLinux offer to hosting companies?
Virtuozzo offers several advantages. Some we have already discussed. Other technical benefits include mass conversion of CentOS 7/8 containers to VzLinux 8 directly from the host node without service and business interruption. VzLinux 8 will be shipped with pre-installed control panels for Containers and Virtual Machines. In our commercial flavor, we will optimize the distribution for LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL/MariaDB, PHP) and WordPress stacks. For very secure and isolated systems, we will introduce Enterprise Digital Signing, which allows a trusted boot process from turning on the system until the login prompt is reached.
In addition, hosting partners will get support from a single vendor.
How are you planning to fund the project?
Virtuozzo Linux is the base distribution for our open source software, OpenVz, and our commercial software, Virtuozzo Hybrid Server. There is no independent funding required with regard to engineering and infrastructure resources. The engineering team is building and testing the distribution on existing infrastructure. In order to gain community support for the project, we are investing in marketing efforts so that we have as much feedback from other testing environments as possible.
Are you planning to collaborate with CentOS developers?
We are already thinking about a broader community-driven development approach to hand over the open-source distribution delivery and publishing to the community. Virtuozzo will still provide the infrastructure for automatic compile and validation tests. We encourage everyone from the Linux community to join us and help with delivering a free and open open-source enterprise-grade Linux distribution.
What do you think about new vertical markets (Managed service providers) and the infrastructure and cloud products you’re seeing growth with?
We look at segmentation into two vertical markets: hosting service providers and managed service providers (MSPs), which also includes cloud service providers (CSPs). Service providers have been our #1 focus for 20+ years, that doesn’t change, but they have unique challenges, use cases and technological requirements.
The main evolution we are witnessing in the hosting service provider market is a shift from shared hosting to Virtual Private Server (VPS) and managed VPS. There are several factors influencing this shift in the market from lower-cost, bare-minimum to quality, managed hosting. And this is an area where Virtuozzo can provide great assistance to hosting providers.
We offer Virtuozzo Hybrid Server as the infrastructure for hosting providers’ shared hosting environment and a seamless migration to VPS that benefits both the end customer and the service provider. We have also recently built a tailor-made solution that enables one-click migration from shared hosting to VPS, simplifying the process and creating more value for the hosting provider that leads to better efficiency and profit. By offering both technical expertise and business advisory services, we’re creating additional value in the market for our long-standing hosting partners and a path to future success.
MSP/CSP is a relatively new segment for us, in which we have seen significant growth over the last year. Virtuozzo Hybrid Infrastructure is a good fit for these service providers as it offers a top-notch private and public cloud solution to address SMB and mid-tier enterprise customers. It supports all of the standard use cases such as IaaS, PaaS, Managed Kubernetes, Storage as a Service, and support for business applications.
We are very excited to launch a new product for the MSP/CSP segment this spring. Virtuozzo Hybrid Cloud is Virtuozzo’s own cloud specifically designed for partners. It will not be sold directly to enterprises or end customers. Rather the solution is tailored for MSPs who may not want to manage the underlying infrastructure – Hybrid Cloud enables them to quickly and seamlessly offer white-labeled cloud services to their end customers. More information on this product will be available on our website in the coming weeks, and we hope readers will stay in touch to learn more.