VMware paints virtualization as a fertile ecosystem

Although much talk about virtualization revolves around VMware, the company is looking to change that picture, claiming virtualization is an ecosystem with plenty of opportunities for all areas of the industry and enterprise.

VMware hit the road on Friday along with Dell, Altiris and Intel for a series of panel discussions and technology demonstrations in Australia and New Zealand, with interoperability being a key theme. The roadshow will run over the next month.

There has been a lot of activity in the virtualization space recently with Microsoft giving away Virtual Server 2005 Release 2, and announcing that it will provide support under current Virtual Server contracts for Linux guest operating systems. It will also build native virtualization support into Longhorn.

Red Hat is building support for Xen 3.0 into Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5; SuSE Linux 10.0 comes with a technological preview of Xen 3; and XenSource is reading a packaged version of its virtualization technology called XenEnterprise.

AMD and Intel are building virtualization support into processors. Hardware-assisted virtualization, Intel says, will improve performance by making the hardware handle handoffs between the virtualization layer and guest operating systems, and eliminate control conflicts by providing a "higher privilege ring for the virtual machine monitor", among other benefits. Intel Xeon-based systems with the new capabilities are expected to ship in the first half of this year and Itanium 2 in the second half.

Dell CTO Kevin Kettler said recently that virtualization plays an important role in his company's scalable enterprise vision. He sees customers moving to environments built on one, two and four socket systems (because sockets can be multicore). Customers will be able to pay as they grow instead of investing in monolithic systems.

VMWare itself in February released a free, entry-level hosted virtualization product online for Linux and Windows servers (which has more than one million downloads), and has made a number of announcements since then.

"Everything we are doing as a company right now is about opening up virtualization to as many members of the IT community and general public as possible," said VMware Australia managing director, Paul Harapin.

Even though the company already has 20,000 customers worldwide, more than 90 percent of which are running its virtual infrastructure in production, Harapin feels there's a much greater opportunity yet to be tapped and the company is looking to other vendors to help.

This is why the company is releasing its source code to other IT vendors that register as part of its Community Source (http://www.vmware.com/communitysource/) partner program so that they can build their systems to interoperate.

"So the likes of Intel, HP, Dell, IBM, Red Hat, Oracle, SAP, CA and many more are all part of our ecosystem and have access to our source code. They are not just partners. They are actually all writing their product sets to really integrate tightly with what we do," he said.

A lot of the moves into vendor interoperability have been driven by customers, according to Harapin.

"They will say - OK, we've been virtualizing our mainframe for years but now we want to virtualize our x86s and we have wide range of hardware, software and applications that we also want to be able to use in a virtualized environment," he said.

"So I think that is why virtualization has been so successful. It is being pushed by all aspects of the IT industry and driven by customers as well."

Harapin says the many benefits for virtualization are obvious to the systems administrator right through to the CEO.

"Virtualization covers all aspects of the business chain, helping save costs and drive business responsiveness," he said.

"On average, we are able to cut 60 to 70 percent of infrastructure requirements through server virtualization and 70 percent upwards of associated management costs."

VMware customer, Brisbane City Council, for example has achieved a 15-to-1 consolidation ratio through virtualization (so for every 15 servers they had on the floor they now have only one.)

But this, Harapin says, is only the beginning. Although businesses may be initially attracted to the immediate cost savings that virtualization offers them, they are often then drawn to the further benefits such as disaster recovery and business continuity.

The drive for VMware's products came from studies that showed that most x86 servers only run at between 5 and 10 percent utilization.

"It's like having a Ferrari and never driving more than 20km an hour. It's sitting there and taking up data centre space and using electricity and costing time and money to manage when it's not being utilized as much as possible," he said.

"We are trying to get those utilization rates up to about 80 or 90 percent, which is what mainframe utilization is, through virtualization."

Additional reporting from John Dix, Network World

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