VMware Targets Server Management

Converter 3 virtualization app aids system automation.

After a four-month beta run, VMware is releasing the full version of its Converter 3 virtualization software.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company on Jan. 29 released the full version of its product after beta testing the software since Oct. 2. The software allows automation of physical-to-virtual servers without having to shut down the physical server, as well as virtual-to-virtual conversion. The software also allows users to clone machines from a remote console.

The race to offer better, more versatile and easier-to-use virtualization software has increased as enterprises look to contain server sprawl, reduce the use of power in the data center and save on cooling costs. Businesses also are looking at virtualization for backup and disaster recovery scenarios and are looking to use it in areas outside of servers, including storage and networking. In an Aug. 31 report by Enterprise Management Associates, researchers found that deployment of virtualization is growing by about 26 percent annually.

Timothy Happychuk, regional IT director for Montreal-based Quebecor-Sun Media Group, one of Canadas largest media companies, has been dealing with these type of issues for years, and first started looking at virtualization tools about three years ago.

Part of the problem at Quebecor-Sun is that IT has been saddled with legacy systems that still run mission-critical functions, such as taking video and news feeds from satellites for the companys newsrooms. Migrating some of this proprietary software off older servers to more modern systems normally has taken almost a month, including having to physically convert the applications to a virtual machine, Happychuk said.

For the last four months, Happychuk and his IT staff have been beta testing the Converter 3 software, and he said hes been able to speed up virtualization from one machine a month to running several conversions a day.

"The first night we used the software, we targeted six systems to migrate at the same time, and we launched the application and watched it go to work," Happychuk said.

VMware is looking to replicate this type of success elsewhere, especially as competitors such as Virtual Iron and vendors using the open-source virtualization hypervisor Xen have started to offer lower-cost alternatives. The full Converter 3 software will come in two versions—both free. The Converter Starter edition is geared toward SMBs (small and midsize businesses) and can perform one conversion at a time.

The Enterprise addition can perform multiple conversions, such as the virtual migrations Happychuk experimented with at Quebecor-Sun. It comes free for those companies that have a subscription to VMwares VirtualCenter Management Server, said Ben Matheson, VMwares director of product management and marketing.

The plan to offer the software for free is twofold, said Matheson. The first part of the plan is to get more companies familiar with virtualization—especially the products made by VMware. The second is the hope that once the companies use the products, they will want to expand into VMwares high-end software offerings. "This tool is totally and fully focused on customer feedback," he said. "We are the market leader in physical-to-virtual tools and usability performance and reliability. "

To that end, Matheson said the company will promote Converter 3 as a faster way to perform virtualization tasks within the data center, as well as a tool that allows IT administrators the ability to use automation to clone machines. In addition, VMware has expanded its software support to include the 32- and 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows XP and Server 2003, as well as Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4 SP4+.

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said 2007 will shape up as an interesting year for VMware as other virtualization software makers, such as Virtual Iron, Microsoft with its Virtual Server software and IBM with the virtualization capabilities in its Power 5 processor, look to chip away at the x86 market. "Its a very interesting product that they have developed for their users," King said. "They have really managed to keep the conversation [around virtualization] going, and I think thats why they have proved themselves superior all year long." ´