VMware beefs up Virtual Server

Hoping to cash in on corporate users' growing desire for server consolidation, VMware Inc. on Monday rolled out an improved version of its core product that makes virtual SMP (symmetrical multi-processing) available to dual-processor servers allowing larger mission-critical applications to be consolidated on Intel-based systems.

The new ESX Server 2 partitions multi-processor servers into smaller servers or "virtual machines," making it possible to run multiple operating systems such as Windows and Linux simultaneously on the same server. For the first time the new version works with the company's Control Center and VMotion technologies, introduced last month, that lets administrators move running virtual machines from one physical system to another.

"We think ESX Server 2 along with VMotion gives users a chance to change the way they manage their datacenters because they no longer have their software tied to any physical box. They can just flip it from one box to another without interrupting users' service," said Michael Mullany, senior director of product management at VMware in Palo Alto, Calif.

The company also beefed up the product's availability by adding "NIC-teaming" and improving SAN support, thereby increasing reliability and performance, Mullany contended.

"NIC-teaming lets you group individual physical NIC cards into one Super NIC, so if one fails the traffic gets routed through the others. We have also added the same capability for SAN cards," Mullany said. "We are trying to make it [ESX Server] a safer basket in which to put multiple eggs."

Explaining the technical advantages of the new ESX Server, company officials said that by running directly on the hardware, it offers finer-grained resource controls that can adapt to the needs of a particular mission-critical application. The resource management capabilities make it possible to control the levels and limits of CPU, networking, memory, and disk I/O allocated to and used by each virtual machine, they explained.

Some users said they like what they see in the product and believe it gives them more options in managing their servers.

"We have about 30 virtual machines running production applications on four physical servers, and so we're starting to look at using ESX Server for clustering and high availability. We recently started moving some of our Citrix environment to ESX Server and have had much success so far," said David Pearson, Windows lead system administrator for the State of Montana.

ESX Server 2 now supports blade servers including IBM's BladeCenter and Hewlett-Packard's ProLiant BL20p and BL40p models. It also supports several operating systems including Microsoft Windows XP Professional, and Windows NT 4 as well as Red Hat's Advanced Server 2.1 and that company's Linux versions 9.0, 8.0, 7.3, and the SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 8, and SuSE Linux 8.2.

Available now pricing for the ESX Server 2 and Virtual SMP start at US$3,750 for a 2 CPU machine, with pricing for Virtual SMP at US$1,250 for a 2 CPU machine.

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