GSX Server 3 Eases Deployment of VMs

VMware tool offers comprehensive virtualization package for X86 environments.

VMware Inc.s GSX server 3 offers it managers a robust virtualization tool that is well-suited for server consolidation in midsize data centers or for software testing in development environments. eWEEK Labs tests show that GSX Server 3 provides a comprehensive virtualization package for x86 environments. We were especially impressed with the improved management features, which make deployment and configuration of VMs (virtual machines) virtually painless. GSX Server 3 was released last month and is priced starting at $2,500 for Windows or Linux host operating systems with as many as two processors.

Sites with larger data centers or distributed environments should deploy the high-end ESX Server with VirtualCenter, also from VMware (which was acquired in December by EMC Corp.). VirtualCenter offers advanced workload management and provisioning capabilities.

GSX Server 3 supports 32-bit Windows and Linux host operating systems. Sixty-four-bit support is not available, and VMware officials said they have no plans at this time to add such support. We hope VMware will add 64-bit support in the future to take advantage of the larger memory address space.

GSX Server 3 runs on servers with support for as many as 32 processors and up to 64GB of memory for Windows and Linux host operating systems that support Physical Address Extension. GSX Server 3 also allows allocation of as much as 3.6GB of memory to a single VM for applications with large memory requirements.

With better guest operating system support than in previous versions, GSX Server 3 will give IT managers more flexibility when consolidating heterogeneous server environments. Guest operating system support includes Microsoft Corp.s Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 7 and NetWare 6.5 Server, and FreeBSD 5.0. Earlier versions of many of these operating systems are supported as well.

GSX Server 3 also provides better, more robust VM management. The redesigned GSX Server Console makes managing different VMs on different host systems much easier than with previous versions of GSX Server.

eWEEK Labs installed GSX Server 3 on a four-way Intel Corp. Xeon-based server with 1GB of memory and running Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition. After initial installation, we launched the GSX Server Console to create VMs—a task made simple through the use of wizards. Once the VMs were created, we installed guest operating systems using CD-ROMs on the server.

The useful Virtual Network Editor allowed us to easily manage and configure VMnets, VMwares term for VM networks. Using drop-down boxes, we could map different host adapters to the VMnets, quickly disable or enable virtual adapters, and manage DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) and NAT (Network Address Translator) configurations.

GSX Server also let us configure VMs so that they would start up or shut down automatically when the host system started up or shut down. Other important enhancements in GSX 3 include support for Preboot Execution Environment-enabled VMs, VM snapshots, NIC teaming and virtual SCSI support.