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VMware updates let users virtualize larger workloads

VMware announced Monday plans to release the next generation of its ESX Server and VirtualCenter software, which will allow IT organizations to virtualize larger workloads.

Virtualization software firm VMware announced Monday the specifics of the next generation of its x86-based ESX Server and VirtualCenter products. The increased 16GB virtual machine memory limits and a new 4-way virtual Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP) option will enable higher processor-intensive server applications to run in virtual machines.

Virtualization -- the use of software to emulate hardware or a total computer environment other than the one the software is actually running in -- has been pegged one of the IT industry's hot trends, because of how well it helps data center managers tap into hardware they usually fail to fully utilize.

ESX Server 3 is the company's latest software for partitioning servers. VirtualCenter 2 is a systems management tool for the virtualized environment. Both tools are currently in limited beta testing with a general release slated for Q1 2006. Since the release of the original ESX Server offering in 2001, VMware said it's been adopted by more than 10,000 IT organizations worldwide.

According to Tony Iams, a vice president at Ideas International, a Port Chester, N.Y.-based analyst firm, VMware has realized that some of its clients have been so enthusiastic about virtualization that they want to virtualize their entire infrastructure, not just underutilized small boxes. Giving those customers the ability to virtualize much larger workloads is, in essence, a no-brainer.

"VMware is accommodating its leading-edge users and helping them migrate to higher levels of the application infrastructure," Iams said. "Now [customers] are saying, 'We trust the technology and we want to use it on bigger applications.'"

According to VMware, ESX Server 3 has broader x86 support than ESX Server 2, and is designed to work with newer dual-core processor hardware. It also offers enhanced network-attached storage (NAS) and iSCSI networked storage compatibility.

VMware recently partnered with Sun Microsystems-- the last major vendor to sign on to support its software -- and announced it would provide VMware's server virtualization capabilities for its x86 servers and the Sun StorEdge 6920 system. It also plans to support Solaris as a guest OS on future VMware server and desktop products.

"Now you'll able to support the largest workloads inside a virtualized environment," said Brian Byun, VMware's vice president of products. "With these new capabilities, the vast majority of workloads can be virtualized safely."

There are also new features for VirtualCenter 2, including a richer unified client, centralized host configuration tools, and enhanced usage reporting and security auditing. VMware also introduced new Distributed Availability Service (DAS) and resource scheduling services (DRS) for the management software.

According to the VMware, DAS is an infrastructure-wide, high-availability service for critical applications that detects failed virtual machines and automatically restarts them on alternate ESX Server hosts. DAS selects a failover host that can honor the virtual machine's resource allocations.

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VMware described DRS as resource optimization that will help data centers enable a self-managing, highly efficient compute cluster with built-in resource and load balancing. DRS balances virtual machine workloads across ESX Server hosts so users can safely operate at 80% utilization or higher, and it detects when increased virtual machine activity saturates an ESX Server host. It then triggers automated live migrations to move running virtual machines to other ESX Server nodes so that all resource commitments are met.

VMware said current ESX Server, Virtual SMP, VirtualCenter and VMotion customers with active support and subscription contracts are entitled to the new releases at no cost.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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