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3Leaf Hangs Hat on 'Elastic' Servers

Occasionally, a startup is born to try and challenge or ride the coattails of IBM , Sun Microsystems  and HP  in the multi-billion-dollar market for computer servers.

3Leaf Systems emerged from stealth mode today to announce its candidacy in the server market.

The Santa Clara, Calif., startup unveiled the 3Leaf Systems V-8000 Virtual I/O Server, which aims to offer customers performance-hungry and cost-conscious mainframe-like availability and reliability for x86 commodity systems.

3Leaf CEO Bob Quinn, who secured $20 million last September in a funding round led by Intel Capital, said V-8000 addresses the pain points datacenter managers feel by boosting server resource utilization far beyond its current 10 percent to 15 percent level.

"Due to the transition from scale-up to scale-out computing over the last 10 years, we've had to deal with extremely low utilization on our servers," Quinn told internetnews.com in a recent interview. "That low utilization drives power and space, which really puts the datacenter in a bind today."

Quinn also said the V-8000 will help accelerate the deployment and provisioning of new servers and provide high availability and management.

V-8000
V-8000 Virtual I/O Server.
Source: 3Leaf

"In this day and age, it should be possible, particularly with virtualization, to deploy servers -- maybe not instantly but certainly in under an hour," Quinn said. "Most datacenters take from four to 12 weeks to deploy a new server with a new application stack. That is unacceptable."

Perhaps most importantly, Quinn said customers who try the V-8OOO may realize capital expenditure savings of 50 percent from the get-go, as well as operations savings as great as 60 percent.

The V-8000 aims to boost the efficiency of existing x86 servers by delivering I/O connectivity for machines, eliminating the need for excess network and storage adapters, disks and switch ports.

This is because the servers are stateless nodes that connect to virtual Network Interface Cards, virtual Host Bus Adapters, and virtual disks through the V-8000. Fewer connections to the storage area network (SAN) means significant capital savings, Quinn said, and because there is less to manage, operating expenditures are reduced, as well.

Servers may be deployed faster with the help of the V-8000, too. Because the V-8000 allows servers to be defined in advance, spare nodes can have new profiles applied in minutes rather than weeks. Moreover, network and storage interfaces have been pre-allocated to server profiles to eliminate the provisioning of those products.

Quinn said the V-8000 also offers a kind of "elastic" computing resource, thanks to service policies that allow networking and storage levels to be raised or lowered as application demand changes.

Finally, the V-8000 may go down but it won't stay down. In case of a failure, the V-8000 automatically fails over to a redundant V-8000 with redundant networking and storage interfaces.

3Leaf enters a competitive computer server market, of which IBM, Sun Microsystems and HP command roughly three-quarters. However, Quinn pointed out, 3Leaf systems, recommended as pairs for $100,000 are intended to augment and support those companies' x86 servers, not replace them.

Evidence suggests there may be plenty of datacenter computing business to go around, even for startups like 3Leaf.

With IDC expecting money spent on IT consolidation projects to grow from $18.1 billion in 2004 to $24.7 billion in 2009, virtualization software sales are expected to rise from $340 million to $15 billion during that period.

That should provide more than enough opportunity for 3Leaf to succeed, Quinn said.