VMware upgrades ESX Server

VMware this week announced an upgrade to its ESX Server software that adds support for more physical memory and more virtual machines, providing options for users looking to consolidate their applications on a single server.

VMware's ESX Server 1.5 software, like previous editions, allows servers and workstations to run multiple copies of either Windows or Linux operating systems on the same computer. This makes it possible, for example, to put several Web servers on one Intel Corp.-based server instead of running Web servers on several systems.

ESX Server 1.5 is aimed at data centers and can support up to 64 concurrent virtual machines, up from 30, said Diane Greene, president and chief executive officer at VMware. It also can now address up to 64G bytes of RAM, up from 4G bytes of RAM in ESX Server 1.1, and permits each virtual machine to use up to 3.6G bytes of RAM.

Because of its ability to use more memory, the new version also allows for more applications to be run on one physical server.

The software typically runs on servers with two to eight processors and lets an administrator adjust CPU (central processing unit), memory and bandwidth resources on the fly for each partition.

Pricing for ESX Server 1.5 starts at US$3,750 for a two-processor server and rises to $10,000 for a server with 8 processors, a spokeswoman for the Palo Alto, California, company said. The software is currently available in the U.S. and will soon be available worldwide, she added.

The company has seen particular interest for the product among financial institutions in the U.S., Greene said.

VMware is currently in a partnership with IBM Corp. to co-develop this type of partitioning technology for IBM's Intel-based server line. With the ESX Server software, the companies are touting expanded processing capabilities at a reduced cost, because users would require fewer Intel servers and wouldn't have to pay for high-end hardware.

VMware is also looking into making its products available for the burgeoning blade server market and for Intel's higher-end 64-bit Itanium processors. The mainframe-like partitioning features of VMware's software could help users manage a number of applications on powerful Itanium servers and make the hardware more competitive against Unix servers from IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Inc. and others, Greene said.

"ESX is becoming a strong player in the enterprise, and we expect it to move farther up the food chain," she said.

Also this week, VMware released a new beta version of its lower end GSX Server 2.0 software.

(Additional reporting by Matt Berger in San Francisco.)

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