Heterogeneous Hypervisor World on the Horizon

With VMworld less than two weeks away, the big news out of Palo Alto on Tuesday was not the show. Nor was it the incremental updates to Workstation (6.0.5), Player (2.0.5) or Server (1.0.7).

Rather, the news was that Executive Vice President of R&D Richard Sarwal had resigned after an eight-month stint. His next move &#151 a return to Oracle, where Sarwal had been previously for 18 years.

Although no formal successor has been named, Stephen Herrod, Ph.D, CTO and senior vice president of R&D, will be stepping in until one is selected.

Only the basics have been made public, but speculation abounds. In fact, it’s all too obvious to scratch one’s head and consider whether innovation at VMware is an issue. Is it possible that the company once thought to be unstoppable has hit a brick wall when it comes to innovating to the next level?

With Microsoft ramping up to full throttle on Hyper-V, VMware’s hold on the market is becoming tenuous, at best. The vendors, both hard and soft, with which it must have a symbiotic relationship are well aware of this. No longer is limiting virtualization environment choices to ESX enough.

HP is one company that is well aware of this. Jim Ganthier, director of marketing, BladeSystem, HP, told ServerWatch that more than 3.7 million HP servers are ready to be virtualized, and the bulk of virtualized servers are VMware environments. Today, VMware is HP’s largest partner in terms of the number of servers.

Ganthier harbors no illusions however, “I would never bet against the team in Redmond. We’re taking the tactic of whichever way it goes, our customers will have the option of working with whomever they want to work with.”

Thus, Tuesday’s release of the BL495c, which HP is billing as “the first server blade specifically focused to run virtual blades,” will eventually be be compatible with the three main virtualization environments.

It will be VMware-compatible when it ships on the 15th, and available for Citrix Xen and Microsoft shortly after that. Customers will have the choice of one or more of the environments.

Blade servers have long been the peanut butter to the virtual jelly. What makes the this particular blade server so well suited to virtualization is its souped up memory capacity, 16 DIMMS (which enables it to support 512 virtual machines) and thermal logic technology, which translates into a 90 percent reduction in the amount of power the hard drive throws off.

HP is hardly the only vendor looking beyond VMware. From the software side, Embotics
revealed it would be spin off the monitoring functionality of its flagship V-Commander product under the branding of VScout.

VScout, which launched on Wednesday is a free download that will be available from both Embotics and its partners.

It is designed to provide enterprises with “more insight into the virtual environment,” David Lynch, vice president of marketing, told ServerWatch.

The larger aim is, of course, to sell more product. Lynch believes that “the quicker people understand what’s going on, the quicker they’ll move to the [company’s other] tools,” and this offers those unfamiliar with the company, “exposure to the quality of Embotics offerings.”

VScout is a more timely replacement for all of the tracking spreadsheets, as it automatically populates the database in real time.

Users can set up to 10 custom fields for things they want to VScout to track. The fields automatically become part of the reporting structure and function the same as other fields. The software also allows for unlimited filter sets and an unlimited number of reports to be created, Lynch said.

Any virtual machine (VM) spawned from there, automatically inherits those attributes.

Lynch noted that because VScout has a browser-based interface, there is no cap on the number of users.

However, although the software can support an unlimited number of VMs, it requires at lest one VMware Virtual Center be deployed, and it supports up to two.

This exclusive relationship with VMware is not for long, however.

“As VCommander supports MS [likely in January 2009], we’ll overlay that down for VScout, and the same for Citrix Xen [also planned for 2009],” Lynch said.

The days of homogeneous hypervisor environments are fast coming to an end. The OEMs and the software providers get this, and conceptually, multiple hypervisors aren’t all that different from multiple operating systems.

There’s a lot of pie still on the table, having multiple plates is no doubt going to be the way to fill up.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch, where this column first appeared. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

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