Greene: How Virtualization Became Its Own Industry

VMware unveils its new slimmed-down hypervisor, disaster recovery tool and virtual desktop controller.

SAN FRANCISCO-VMware President and CEO Diane Greene put the virtualization phenomenon into keen perspective when she kicked off the fourth annual VMworld conference Sept. 11.

"A year ago, we were talking about virtualization becoming mainstream, now we're talking about it as an industry," Greene told a standing room-only crowd of some 10,000 attendees at Moscone Center, here.

"That IPO we had recently? That wasn't about VMware-that was about the whole virtualization industry," Greene said to loud applause. "Thank you all for helping us get there."

Parent company EMC sold off 10 percent of VMware in an initial public offering last month.

In assessing where the relatively young virtualization world has been and where it is going, Greene said that "virtualization is driving a complete infrastructure refresh. The data center is getting modernized; the virtualization layer is offering a better way to handle disaster recovery, security, provisioning ... and we're helping companies save lots of money by using less electrical power."

Processors are getting optimized to run virtualization faster, servers and operating systems are getting new interfaces and new system-monitoring tools are becoming part of the overall data center picture, Greene said.
"Even the applications are being optimized for virtualization," Greene said. "There's now a huge industry, and it's an incredible time to be part of it. We can see and help build as the complete refresh happens."

Slimming Down

Greene said there has been some confusion about exactly what a hypervisor (VMware's software layer) is, in relation to an operating system.

"The hypervisor sits right on top of the hardware," Greene said. "A lot of times it's seen as being in the same class as the operating system. But the OS does far more than the hypervisor-it manages the applications and the end user. The hypervisor just manages the resources."

The hypervisor is equated with virtualization, but it is not the same thing as the virtual infrastructure, Greene said.

"The hypervisor manages the resources, and the virtual infrastructure aggregates those resources, so that they will always have responsiveness to the user," Greene said.

VMware's hypervisor has been the foundation of the company's rapidly growing business for six years, Greene said, and "it's done a great job of managing resources. But the footprint is 2 gigabytes; 90 percent of that is the [control] console. The kernel is only 32 MB. So we decided to thin it down so we could use it in other areas."

The result is VMware's new ESX Server 3i server, announced here at the conference. The new hypervisor is small enough it can be carried on a flash chip and also embedded directly into servers and storage boxes built by company partners, such as Dell, IBM, NEC, HP, EMC and NetApp.

ESX Server 3i is a bare-metal-type hypervisor that partitions a physical server into multiple secure and portable virtual machines.

"Ninety percent of the [old] hypervisor was the peripheral operating system we were tied to. We rearchitected it, and now the new version is here. The smaller the VM engine is, the better the security and portability of the software," Greene said.

IBM will be coming out in Q4 with a new MP System x server that includes a 4GB USB key that contains one of these new hypervisors. Dell plans to ship an appliance-like machine later this year that will include a hypervisor in flash memory. This is designed to lead to performance improvements by cutting bootup times and by enabling server makers to take hard disks out of their servers to lower power consumption.

"The most striking feature of VMware ESX Server 3i is the ease of use," said Rob Jones, technology director of Northern Europe at ALSTOM. "Just plug it in, and it's ready to run virtual machines. This will greatly simplify the deployment of servers at our many remote sites and offices where we may not have dedicated IT personnel."

VMware also announced a pair of other new products at the show: a disaster recovery tool, VMware Site Recovery Manager, and a virtual deskop, Desktop Manager 2.

Site Recovery Manager is designed to automate the disaster recovery process so that users can recover a system in hours rather than days.

Virtual Desktop Manager 2, what the company calls a "connection broker," enables enterprises to centralize their desktop management using the VMware Infrastructure 3 platform. In this way, companies can organize data protection, disaster recovery capabilities and other functions that had been reserved only for servers.

VMworld continues through Sept. 13.


Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...