We tested VI3 on a Sun x4200 server with four dual-core 2.393GHz Opteron processors and 7.87GB of RAM; an IBM x3655 server with four dual-core Opterons and 4GB of RAM; and a pair of IBM eServer 325 servers, each with dual 1,595MHz Opteron processors and 2GB of RAM. We opted to add the eServers to the mix to test VI3s VMotion live migration capabilities. To migrate virtual machines from one host to another via VMotion, the processors of each host must be fairly similaras we learned, the dual-core Opterons that drove our Sun and IBM boxes werent close enough.Be sure to check out VMwares HCL (hardware compatibility list) before planning your own VI3 implementation. In any case, once we arrived at a working configuration, we were pleased by the smoothness with which VI3 managed VMotion migrations during testing.In fact, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our eServers were equipped to join the party at all, since the machines include only IDE drives and previous versions of ESX server required SCSI drives to operate. During our tests, we were able to install ESX Server on the IDE drives of our eServers, although those drives werent available to us for use as VMFS-formatted data stores once wed brought the systems up. (VMware VMFS is the high-performance cluster file system for storage virtualization.) Instead, we provided those machinesas well as our two other, beefier test boxeswith shared storage via an iSCSI SAN that we cobbled together for testing using the open-source Openfiler project. EMC to sell 10% of VMware in IPO. Click here to read more. We downloaded an Openfiler appliance from rPath.org, set it up and had our four ESX Server systems consuming iSCSI storage within about an hour. Again, while this configuration worked well for testing purposes, wed advise sticking to approved SANs from VMwares HCL for production purposes. Among 32-bit operating systems, VI3 explicitly supports Windows NT4 Service Pack 6a through Windows Server 2003 R2 and Vista; Red Hat Enterprise Linux Versions 2.1 through 4; Novells SUSE Linux Enterprise Server Versions 8 through 10; Novells Open Enterprise Server; Novell NetWare Versions 5.1 through 6.5; and Suns Solaris 10. VI3 supports the 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 R2, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and Solaris 10. We also tested a couple of 64-bit rPath Linux-based OS appliances, the 32-bit version of Debian "Etch" and the most recent release of Solaris Express, the test branch of which will become Solaris 11. All of these systems ran well during tests of VI3. Management capabilities We accessed our ESX Servers individually and as a group through the VirtualCenter server, using a Windows client application based on Version 1.1 of Microsofts .Net Framework. Beyond its Windows-only limitations, we were happy overall with the Virtual Infrastructure client, through which we could create and configure individual virtual machines, as well as manipulate configuration options related to our ESX Server hosts. For most operations, such as adding a hard drive to a guest VM, wed make the changes we wished and hit OK, and we could then move on to other operations while a status bar in a Recent Tasks window at the bottom of the interface ticked off the operations progress toward completion. For other activities, such as those involved in configuring iSCSI targets for particular hosts, the client interface locked up until the operation was done, barring us from undertaking unrelated activities for other ESX Server hosts. We were tempted at times to launch a second instance of the client to get back to work while waiting for these sorts of operations to finish. VI3 offers a rather broad set of resource allocation tools; we used them to reserve CPU, memory and disk resource levels for specific VMs, as well as to define more broadly the shares of available resources to devote to particular machines or pools of machines. VI3 supports authentication using Microsoft Active Directory, as well as a VI3-specific authentication scheme that we used in our testing and through which we could create separate administrative users authorized to carry out particular roles on individual ESX Servers or on the set of test servers as a whole. Advanced Technologies Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.