Virtual Iron, which has been trying carve out a place for itself in a virtualization market that continues to grow in scope and importance, is updating its namesake software suite to better address disaster recovery and high availability concerns.
Virtual Iron 4.2, which becomes available Dec. 10, adds several new features to the company's virtualization suite, including a new management tool called LiveSnapshot, which allows users to take a snapshot of a virtual image and then apply a patch or a change to that image without shutting down the entire virtual server.
Other tools include a multipathing feature for virtual server Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks that will provide better support for redundancy and business continuity. Multipathing is a relatively new technology that separates data and then divides the data into separate paths, which speeds up the I/O process. The latest version of Virtual Iron's software also includes new operating system support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10.
Mike Grandinetti, vice president and chief marketing officer for Virtual Iron, said the new features will help differentiate his company's product from XenSource, the other major user of the Xen open-source hypervisor, the key piece of software used in open-source virtual environments. Virtual Iron switched from its own proprietary hypervisor software to Xen in 2006.
While XenSource received a boost after it was acquired by Citrix earlier this year, Virtual Iron has worked to become an independent vendor of virtualization technology with an emphasis on brining its software to mid-market and small businesses.
"As we look to the next generation of virtualization technology, customers are looking for software that is easier to install and easier to use that also has the capabilities to deliver advanced management features," Grandinetti said.
While Virtual Iron cannot compete against the resources of VMware and Citrix, its approach to virtualization and its focus on smaller companies has garnered some positive reviews. In a Nov. 29 research note, John Abbot and Rachel Chalmers, analysts with the 451 Group, noted the company has made strides to provide better functionality to its customers.
"Virtual Iron recognizes it has a tough job ahead of it competing directly against the market incumbent," according to the report. "So it's not looking to displace happy VMware users, but those who require policy-based automation and more affordable, less complex live migration. XenSource now also supports live migration, but it's only been available for a few months versus more than a year for Virtual Iron."
Grandinetti said the new features found in the 4.2 version of software should help bring the virtualization out of the test environment and into the production environment. For example, the snapshot feature allows users to makes changes to a virtual image without having to take down the whole virtual machine. Users can then test the changes to the image to ensure the changes work with the rest of the virtual environment.
The new version also allows users to pool both physical disk and virtual disk resources that can better support technologies such as cloud computing.
These types of features and functionality that allow for high availability and disaster recovery will become more important as virtualization becomes a viable technology in the enterprise. Forrester Research recently found that half of all enterprises its surveyed were using x86 virtualization now and two-thirds of all companies will be using the technology by 2009.
The 4.2 version of Virtual Iron's software retains the same pricing structure as the previous version. A free version of the software supports up to 12 virtual machines on one physical machine. The company also offers an Enterprise Edition, which costs $499 per socket, and an Extended Enterprise Version that costs $799 per socket.