VMware: Hardware Ain’t What it Used to Be


VMware has completed an overhaul of its virtualization software, a
technology that now seems to embody many of the traits of utility computing
scenarios.


VMware Infrastructure 3 helps customers merge applications from different
computing machines into pools of resources that can be dipped into at will
by other computers.


This move, which VMware has been steadily moving toward for the last several
years, is designed to break the typical constraints associated with owning
machines configured to run only specific pieces of software.


VMware Infrastructure 3 includes a broad swath of new and old virtualization
technologies.


It includes VMware ESX Server 3, the company’s strongest server,
storage and network virtualization platform, and VirtualCenter 2 with
VMotion, which lets users move running virtual machines from one host to
another.


New features include storage virtualization via VMFS 3, a new distributed
file system that lets users bundle storage from different storage arrays, and then pools them and makes them available to applications.


With VMotion, the new Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) tool aggregates
hardware resources into logical resource pools and allocates them to
applications running in virtual machines.


When a virtual machine feels the weight of an increased load, DRS allocates
more resources by redistributing virtual machines among the physical
servers.


Another new tool, VMware High Availability (HA), eliminates single points of
hardware failure by relocating and restarting virtual machines.


VMware Consolidated Backup offloads backup jobs to one central server. This
function reduces the load on ESX Server and allows it to run more virtual
machines while backing up data during production hours.


Other new perks include new virtual SMP capabilities to enable
virtualization of large enterprise applications that can scale to take
advantage of four virtual CPUs and 16 gigabytes of memory and new native
support for iSCSI &nbsp and NAS storage.


VMware Infrastructure 3, in beta since October, has been tested with
more than 200 servers and storage arrays, as well as management software.


The platform runs 28 “flavors” of Windows, Linux, Netware and Solaris, and
VMware is offering its new software now in three packages.


The idea of the technology is that servers within data centers can be
managed as one utility and allocated to different divisions or projects
within a company, said Patrick Lin, director of data center platform
products at VMware.


Lin said the practice of servers being oriented for a specific operating
system and application set is giving way to the methodology of different
types of software working on the same machine.


This is quite a departure from where VMware started virtualizing systems,
first with server partitioning through a hypervisor and later with the
consolidation of several servers into few.


“You’ll never look at hardware the same way,” Lin said.


With VMware Infrastructure 3, new capacity can be added or subtracted based
on demand without shutting down the system to adjust resource provisions.


Applications can also be shuttled to hardware resources on the fly
regardless of the operating system and hardware.


Such characteristics are typical of so-called utility computing platforms,
where software automates tasks, such as provisioning servers to handle peak
operating workloads or performing maintenance on failing machines.


Analysts overwhelmingly believe this approach will typify the future of
business computing.


They also believe utility computing will eventually bring a
multi-billion-dollar market opportunity for virtualization vendors such as
VMware and SWSoft, and systems vendors who employ virtualization, such as
IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems.


Designed for small- and medium-sized businesses, VMware Infrastructure
Starter provides server virtualization using local or NAS storage and full
management capabilities through the included VirtualCenter management agent.


VMware Infrastructure Starter starts at $1,000 for 2 CPU configurations.


VMware Infrastructure Standard consolidates production
environments. Its core is ESX Server and includes clustered VMFS 3, Virtual
SMP for running enterprise workloads and the VirtualCenter. VMware
Infrastructure Standard starts at $3,750.


Finally, VMware Infrastructure Enterprise, which embodies VMware’s
virtualization stack, is designed for large data centers and starts at
$5,750.

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