RealTime IT News

Startup Has Designs on Super Virtualization

Startup Virtual Iron Software has created software that can assume the processing and performance of several connected hardware servers.

While virtualization technology from vendors such as VMware is designed to carve up a single box into small partitions, Virtual Iron VFe 1.0 allows users to take multiple computers in a data center and use them as "Lego-like" building blocks, or virtual computers.

The blocks virtualize the functions of processors, memory and storage, separating the physical computing hardware from the operating systems and applications. VFe 1.0 users can consolidate and manage up to 128 virtual computers and manage up to 10 virtual servers per adaptive virtual computer.

VFe aims to reduce server management by making administrators responsible for fewer servers and operating systems. Also, by employing fewer physical servers to process application, customers can buy less capacity on each server.

Scott Davis, who co-founded Virtual Iron and serves as the CTO and executive vice president, said virtual computers created with VFe can be right-sized to fit the needs of data centers.

"Our computers can span from a fraction of a processor, all the way up to large virtual multiprocessors that span a grid," Davis said. "Customers use this for flexibility, being able to handle peak workloads and manageability."

It is a widely believed that most servers in data centers use an average of 10 percent to 15 percent of their total computing capacity. The goal of Virtual Iron is to help businesses maximize the power of the computing infrastructure they have installed, combating the industry-wide challenge of poor server utilization.

Davis said he believes VFe has a more realistic shot at solving the utilization problems than smaller companies like the successful EMC-owned VMware, or even the processor advances made by Intel and AMD.

IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky praised Virtual Iron for having a novel approach to a 30-year-old problem of server utilization, noting that virtual processing software has either made a single machine look like many independent systems or harness many systems to look like one system.

"What makes Virtual Iron Software's approach different is that the operating environment itself can manage processor time, memory utilization, I/O, and storage as if these independent systems were a large symmetric multiprocessing system," Kusnetzky said.

VFe 1.0 will appear in the second quarter this year. Initially, the software will work on x86-based machines, supporting Red Hat and Novell SuSE Linux. The software will have the ability to run any Linux application transparently so programmers do not have to rewrite existing applications.

More processor and operating system support to come at a later date, Davis said.