VMware launches upgraded Workstation software

VMware has announced a new version of its virtualization product for PCs that will allow developers and systems administrators to test and deploy enterprise applications completely in virtual machines.

The company said its Workstation 4.5 leverages snapshot capabilities and Intel's Preboot Execution Environment (PXE), a function embedded in most PCs that can be used for remote installation of both the operating system and applications. With it, users can run PC server-class applications in Microsoft Windows, Linux or Novell NetWare operating environments on a single desktop.

Allan Campbell, vice president of infrastructure and architecture at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, deployed the ESX server product as part of a server consolidation project at the beginning of 2003. He's currently running it on five IBM eServer xSeries 440 servers. Campbell said he had held off on using Workstation because it wasn't integrated with ESX, but now that it is, he will use it to test server packs and build mobile test environments.

"Some of the more technically advanced developers built their workstations on (VMware's) product," Campbell said.

Campbell said VMware's server virtualization software has allowed him "to recapture a lot of underutilized server equipment. It was very common for our physical servers to be dramatically underutilized. Campbell said most of his smaller servers averaged between 10 percent and 15 percent utilization. He added that he's now running 20 to 25 Wintel servers on each xSeries server with VMware.

"We were able to recoup close to US$500,000," Campbell said about the server consolidation project.

However, he noted a hurdle in deploying Workstation: Microsoft's "noncommitment" to support Windows running on top of VMware. "Some vendors take exception to their applications running on virtual machines instead of physical ones," Campbell said.

Mike Mullany, vice president of marketing at VMware, said Workstation can enable a single desktop or server to run multiple copies of Windows NT, Linux and NetWare at the same time. VMware has also increased the memory limits on Workstation, allowing users to create individual virtual machines with up to 3.6GB of memory and use up to 4GB of memory for all running virtual machines.

Using PXE, Workstation 4.5 can boot and install operating systems into new virtual PCs over an enterprise network. The software is also now integrated with Microsoft's Windows Performance Monitor, which tracks virtual machine performance through the Windows performance-monitor counters.

VMware said it will also support Microsoft's next-generation operating system, Windows Longhorn, a preview version of which was made available to developers in October. Mullany said Workstation 4.5 has also improved support for experimental Linux kernels in the 2.6 series.

"That's valuable to us, now that they have full support of Linux," Campbell said. "To us, it's important they keep up with those and always certify their software to run the latest version of the Linux operating system."

VMware was purchased by EMC earlier this year for $625 million and operates as a subsidiary of the Hopkinton, Mass.-based storage vendor.

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