VMware previews virtual server

Hoping to keep the heat on archrival Microsoft, VMware on Wednesday gave developers a glimpse of an early version of its Virtual SMP product that allows a single virtual machine to work with as many as four processors, which in turn can more effectively drive mission-critical applications.

The 4-CPU version of VMware Virtual SMP addresses the anticipation of Intel-based multi-core processors becoming standard late next year, as well as further extending out the advantages of the "virtual infrastructure" to handle data-intensive enterprise workloads, according to company officials.

"We see this announcement as 'feature-proofing' our customers, given the recent shift by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices away from clock speed as a way to get more performance out of a chip and towards multi-core processors. If you are (in) the virtualization business as we are, you better start finding ways to run workloads on multiple cores at a time," said Michael Mullany, VMware's vice president in charge of marketing at the company's VMworld 2004 conference in San Diego.

VMWare already has a 2-CPU Virtual SMP capability on the market in its VMware ESX Server, which it delivered last year. The upcoming 4-Way version is not expected to ship until the second half of 2005 when the company expects the first dual-core processors to hit the market. The first such chips should be versions of the Opteron from AMD, and then in either late 2005 or early 2006 from Intel, according to industry analysts.

Some analysts believe the intention to deliver a 4-CPU version should bolster the VMware product's competitive position against Microsoft's Virtual Server 2005, which Microsoft sent to manufacturing last month and is expected to be available shortly. Presently, Microsoft's virtual server product supports only uni-processors.

"Right now VMware has the only product out there with SMP, and now they are laying out a road map for even more SMP. It will be nice for them to be able to virtualize an entire dual processor server once they are two cores per server, and this, effectively, lets them do that. It is important because it allows someone using ESX Server on a dual processor server to grow up to the entire server as application workloads grow," said Gordon Haff, senior analyst at Illuminata.

Also at VMworld 2004 on Wednesday, the company launched VMWare Community, an online technical community intended to let developers communicate with each other and share information about individual solutions and products. Company officials hope the new resource center can help corporate and third-party users gain better financial returns on their technical investments.

Developers that want to join the VMware Community can do so by going to http://www.vmware.com/vcommunity.

Following up its September announcement of Virtual Server 2005, Microsoft on Tuesday made available over the Web its Virtual Server 2005 Toolkit (VSMT) free of charge. The new toolkit is designed to simplify the process of migrating an operating system and its compatible applications from a physical server to a virtual one running under Virtual Server 2005, company officials said.

The product, which would compete against VMware's P2V 2.0 tool, supports the migration of Windows NT 4.0-, Windows Server 2000-, and Windows Server 2003-based hardware to virtual machines running under Virtual Server 2005.

"Microsoft is trying to put pricing pressure on VMware's products by offering some of them for free, whereas VMware charges for things like the GSX Server P2V tool. And that is one of the reasons VMware is putting so much emphasis on its ESX Server in this case because they know Microsoft can't compete against them directly," Haff said.

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