RealTime IT News

VMware, Intel To Promote Virtualization

SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel and VMware have announced plans to spread the gospel of virtualization to IT managers facing an ever-growing farm of x86 servers that only use a fraction of their full power.

The deal, announced here at the Intel Developer Forum, covers both marketing and technological efforts as they relate to VMware software and Intel CPUs.

Intel plans a global joint marketing campaign to promote the notion of virtualization and intends to add new virtualization technology to forthcoming CPUs.

The conventional wisdom for x86-based servers has been one application per CPU.

That's due in part to the 4GB-memory ceiling of 32-bit computers, and also because it's not always a good idea to have applications sharing address spaces since it can lead to sharing or DLL conflicts, Brian Byun, vice president of products and alliances for Vmware, told internetnews.com.

That way of thinking needs to go, said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Research.

"I think it's something that, at the enterprise level, is largely an outdated notion," he said. "For more common business processes, I think the idea of using that engine on the server to get as much mileage as possible makes a lot of sense."

VMware's pitch has been to customers with hundreds of white boxes running at single-digit CPU utilization to consolidate their servers onto one physical machine. Depending on the applications, customers can consolidate anywhere from 10 to up to 50 systems onto a single box with VMware, Byun said.

Intel has supported VMware's virtualization for several years.

"X86 wasn't designed to be virtualized easily," said Byun. "We asked Intel to add hardware capabilities to make software easier to write and maintain. Over the long run, that made it perform better."

Intel introduced Virtualization Technologies in November designed to improve processor performance and failover in a virtual setting.

The next step will be Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O, or VT-d, due in 2007. This technology will allow specific I/O devices to be assigned to individual virtual machines or partitions.

A network interface card can be specifically assigned to one virtual machine on a server, for instance, which will improve performance and reduce potential conflicts in the system.

Intel's rival AMD has its own virtualization plans, as well.

It has been preloading Xen, an open source virtualization technology, on its AMD64 systems since last year. And the company is planning its own CPU-based virtualization extensions in the second half of this year with the "Rev F" release of the Opteron line.

VMware said it will support the AMD virtualization extensions when they hit the market.

Byun said VMware is doing well on its own, but Intel will be a huge partner in all this evangelism.

"Intel has massive reach with its channel program. There's a lot of heavy lifting coming from Intel," he said.

Part of that heavy lifting involves giving out a kit with a fully functional copy of VMware Server so companies can experiment. VMware has found this to be an excellent means of attracting customers, he said.

King told internetnews.com that there is a market for virtualization, on the x86 platform because a lot of boxes are sitting around doing very little.

"Anything you can do to get more work out of all of those processors is good news for corporate clients," he said.

"It definitely takes finessing and understanding of the demands apps are making on the hardware, but you can certainly get more mileage in most virtualized environments than you can in the old one-app/one-processor style of approach."