Chip Makers Aim to Expand Virtualizations Reach

Intel and AMD offer a peek at how silicon will change the way virtualization is applied in the data center.

SAN FRANCISCO—As virtualization continues to grow, the role of the microprocessor, especially the potential found in new multicore technology, will help bring virtualization into new fields, including high availability, disaster recovery and energy-efficient computing.

On Sept. 11 here at the 2007 VMworld Conference, the two leading producers of chips, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, offered a glimpse into the future of how silicon will begin changing the way virtualization is applied in the data center.

During a talk at the conferences opening session, AMD CEO and Chairman Hector Ruiz spoke of how the concept of virtualization is the type of technology that only comes along once or twice a generation. The potential this type of technology already offers, he said, is only just being realized.

As an example, Ruiz told the audience of how AMD had reduced one of the companys data centers in Texas from 117 servers to seven main servers and two "swing servers." All of these new servers use the companys microprocessors and were based on VMwares ESX 3.0 Server. The result, Ruiz said, meant a 79 percent reduction in power consumption.

"Virtualization is still in its infancy," Ruiz added. "Its history has not yet been written."


Diane Greene kicked off this years VMworld. Click here to find out what she said.

Aside from the benefits of offering power savings and data center consolidation—two areas that Ruiz talks about frequently—AMD and Intel have begun investing heavily in bringing virtualization down to the silicon level.

In the past week, AMD released its much anticipated quad-core Opteron processor and Intel rolled out its "Caneland platform for MP systems and both of these processor developments brought improved virtualization features to the high-end server space.

Before Ruizs address to the approximately 10,000 people in attendance, Patrick Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manager of Intels Digital Enterprise Group, spoke about the new areas that his company plans on addressing in the next year, including issues such as I/O virtualization, energy efficiency and increased reliability of the virtual environment.

For example, Gelsinger talked about how Intel is working to deliver microprocessor architecture that will offer better I/O virtualization with high throughput and low latency, while offering richer I/O functionality. Intel plans on rolling out some of this virtualization technology later this year.


Click here to read more about Microsoft and VMware.

Gelsinger and Ruiz also spoke of how virtualization will increase the reliability to give IT administrations more flexibility with the x86 platform in the data center.

In terms of server consolidation, Gelsinger said the industry might finally start moving all of the legacy operation systems and applications from older, mainframe computers to the x86 platform.

Gelsinger said he originally predicted the demise of the mainframe 20 years ago. While he was wrong about the timing, he now believes the time is right with the virtualization, multicore processors and x86 servers.

"We are looking to build the data center of tomorrow," Gelsinger said.


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