VMware rolls out new version of GSX Server

VMware Inc. started shipping the newest version of its GSX Server partitioning software Monday, touting support for a host of new operating systems along with added management tools for users.

The product allows an administrator to install several operating systems on one Intel Corp.-based server, making it possible for customers to host several applications on one physical system and potentially save money on hardware costs.

GSX Server 2.0 allows users to run the latest versions of Microsoft Corp. Windows and of various Linux distributions. It also includes new APIs for writing Component Object Model (COM) and Perl scripts that let users add more complex management features to the partitioning software, said Kevin Epstein, director of product management for GSX Server.

Unlike VMware's higher-end ESX Server software, targeted at data-center server consolidation, GSX Server was built to help companies design, test and roll out new software applications. GSX Server allows a company to test applications on a number of operating systems, but using only one physical server. In addition, companies can transfer an entire virtual machine or image of the operating system and its applications from server to server, Epstein said.

"The product helps transform the software life-cycle in terms of time as well as the approach," Epstein said. "Companies often do application installs and discover missing files or subtle differences in hardware that cause time lags and hassles. With GSX Server, administrators are literally able to take up fully encapsulated virtual machines as files. They can pick up the file and FTP (file transfer protocol) it over to a deployment server and start it running."

With the new release, VMware has added support for Microsoft's upcoming Windows .Net Server, Standard Server and Enterprise Server as both the host -- or main -- operating system, and the guest operating system. In addition, the Linux distributions MandrakeSoft SA 8.2, RedHat Inc. 7.3 and SuSE Linux AG 8.0 will work as both the host or guest operating systems.

VMware also added a complete set of COM and Perl application programming interfaces for running secure remote access and automation functions with virtual machines. The amount of memory that can be added to the server hardware and host operating system using the PAE (physical address extension) standard has also been upped with the new release, to 8G bytes.

One customer using GSX Server both to consolidate applications onto one server and as a test environment was pleased too see the additional management tools.

"I've tested the 2.0 beta and am much more comfortable with the remote console," said Michael Rice, vice president of technology and operations at Tower Bank and Trust Co.

In GSX Server 2.0, users can set up scripts to automate functions such as checking on a virtual machine's health remotely and to restart a virtual machine if it happens to go down.

Rice purchased a dual-processor 1GHz Pentium III server to make sure he had enough horsepower to handle several applications on a system at once. He runs a database and an automation server that manages various functions within the bank on the one server.

"I bought a state-of-the-art server now, knowing that I will save money easily in the long run," Rice said. "I don't have to go out and buy separate servers now, which is a huge plus."

Rice also runs a test environment with GSX Server for other applications. He uses Windows 2000 and NT but may move to Linux down the road to off-set some licensing costs, he said. "Customers are clamoring for Microsoft relief," he said.

One analyst added that VMware has formed close ties with hardware vendors such as IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., which should create better links between their servers and the partitioning software.

"What's more important than the raw technology in some ways is that VMware has done a very good job of creating tight relationships with the vendors," said Tom Bittman, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "IBM, in particular, is making a big difference."

IBM and VMware have a development agreement to add partitioning capabilities to IBM's Intel-based servers. This gives IBM's Intel line similar high-end features as its mainframe and Unix systems.

GSX Server 2.0 is available immediately at US$3,499 per server via download, or at $3,549 for a boxed version.

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