Has virtualization entered a new era? Ravello Systems, which develops a drag-and-drop solution for running applications in the public cloud using a hypervisor called HVX, thinks so as it pushes enterprises to adopt what it calls "Virtualization 2.0." Will its approach prevail over open source Docker and SDN to become central to the cloud of the future?

In Ravello's interpretation, traditional virtualization—or "Virtualization 1.0"—is poorly suited to handle application deployment for the public cloud. Since most mainstream virtualization solutions virtualize only the operating system, not the networking and storage infrastructure on which applications also depend, they make it difficult to move individual applications seamlessly from one host to another—which is a handy thing to be able to do in the cloud.

Ravello's answer to that problem is software called HVX, which functions essentially as a hypervisor for other hypervisors. In other words, it abstracts virtualization platforms such as KVM and VMware (VMW) from network and storage infrastructure to provide a completely virtualized and agnostic environment for running applications.

The ends, if not the means, of Ravello's platform are similar to those of other solutions that increasingly have been in the spotlight lately. One major example is Docker, an open source project for building "application containers" that allow users to deploy the same application within any virtualized or bare-metal environment, with minimal additional configuration. More broadly, the software-defined networking (SDN) phenomenon, highlighted by projects including OpenDaylight, promises to make networking resources less dependent on physical infrastructure.

There's clearly demand for solutions that lower the hurdles involved in moving applications around within the cloud. Now, it's up to the channel to decide which approach will prevail: Ravello's, based on more virtualization, or the "package" strategy at the core of Docker. Ravello enjoys a lead so far, since its platform has been available since February 2013. Docker's developers, in contrast, caution that the code is not yet ready for production use—although Red Hat (RHT) saw enough potential in Docker to make its integration with Red Hat Enterprise Linux one of the feature highlights of the recent RHEL 6.5 release.

Whatever happens, this area is poised to become an important part of the channel in 2014. Stay tuned.