Virtually Speaking: A Cut Above

It’s an accepted notion that blades and virtualization go together like peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and chocolate. Or whatever tried-and-true combination you prefer. The software architecture inherent in a virtualized environment is complementary to the hardware architecture of blades, and the combination is gaining traction.

With that increased traction comes awareness of problems. One of the most prominent is I/O, which is bottle-necking virtual machine (VM) loaded servers across the board.

Now, if Verari Systems and Xsigo Systems have their way, virtualized environments may get some relief.

The two have partnered to deliver a solution that integrates Verari’s BladeRack 2 X-Series platform with Xsigo’s VP780 I/O Director.

Virtualization Watch

The high-density blade solution offers fully virtualized network and storage connectivity, which means reduced cabling and easier management. Verari will sell the systems as well as provide first-line support, Kevin McGrath, vice president and general manager of the Storage Group for Verari Systems, told ServerWatch.

The blades offer 32 storage connections and 64 network connections per blade. With Xsigo’s solution as part of the deal, server I/O can be configured, managed and migrated system-wide from a single console. Xsigo consolidates the I/O infrastructure and replaces physical network and storage interfaces (e.g., NICs and HBAs) with virtual resources manageable from a single console. I/O configuration can now be remotely managed, saving hours of time on each task.

This means instantly managed connectivity to Verari storage systems. Admins can configure connectivity from any blade to any storage device in seconds, and I/O resources can be configured on-the-fly (from remote locations) without impacting network and storage configurations.

The improvements, if Verari’s numbers are to be believed, are impressive: I/O infrastructure can be reduced by 70 percent, while overall data center efficiency doubles. With Xsigo’s technology the blades can increase I/O connections ten-fold per blade as compared to other solutions available in the market today. This enables Verari blades to hold twice as many virtual machines per blade.

The blade market is a small but crowded space. Verari is a small player meeting niche needs. The combined solution may be the key to it’s breaking out of this niche.

What Verari says what sets its product apart from others is that it allows any blade or storage device to connect to any other regardless of physical connectivity, McGrath said. It’s a wire once, maintain remotely solution for which density efficiency is integral, particularly when it comes to cooling. The blades, according to McGrath, are designed to waste less heat. They are vertically cooled back-to-back.

I/O limitations are a universal issue in virtualization environments, and density is on the growing concern radar. Verari’s solution addresses these needs, as well as hedges its bet in the virtual environment game, by not choosing sides. The solution is VM environment agnostic, McGrath said, which means its appeal can presumably extend to data centers that have opted for VMware, Xen or (eventually) Hyper-V environments, as well as data centers that have not yet chosen a virtual environment but are tied to Linux, Unix or Windows.

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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