HP, Dell Add Virtualization Options

The two vendors will embed VMware's ESX Server 3i product throughout their server portfolios.

A couple of IT heavyweights are offering new options for server virtualization.

At VMware's European showcase, which kicked off in France Feb. 25, Hewlett-Packard and Dell will each announce that they will each begin embedding VMware's ESX Server 3i product into their server portfolios.

On Feb. 26, HP announced that it will embed VMware's ESX 3i hypervisor in a number of its ProLiant servers, including both rack-mount systems and blades. These x86 servers with the embedded hypervisor will begin shipping by late March, said Jeff Carlat, director of HP's Industry Standard Software division.

Meanwhile, Dell is expected to announce a new system called VESO, a 2U (3.5-inch) server that is optimized for virtualization and will include the embedded ESX 3i hypervisor. The company is also detailing its "Virtualization Everywhere" initiative, which will start in April and include embedding the 3i hypervisor across Dell's PowerEdge server portfolio.

In September, VMware announced the new ESX 3i hypervisor, which is a bare-metal-type technology that partitions a physical server into multiple secure and portable virtual machines. At 32MB, the hypervisor is small enough to carry around in flash chip and can be embedded in server or storage systems.

The embedded hypervisor allows users an easier way to deploy virtualization, while offering additional security. Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, said the embedded hypervisor is a direct challenge to Microsoft, which is preparing to release its own server virtualization product called Hyper-V.

"What VMware has done is decided to grow its business by looking at the layer between the metal and the operating system and that makes Microsoft uneasy because there's now more than one contender for that spot," Kay said.

HP and Dell were considered two of the top five server vendors both in the United States and throughout the world in 2007, according to a recent Gartner report, which means that by embedding virtualization directly into the hardware, the two companies could open the technology to a much wider audience.

This includes mid-sized businesses, which have not embraced virtualization at the same pace as large enterprises.

In the case of HP, Carlat said many customers are looking for virtualization to become a standard feature of any hardware and the move to include the 3i hypervisor fulfills this need. To make the technology easier to manage, he said HP is integrating the VMware hypervisor with its own System Insight Manager tools.

"In our view, we see this as the next evolution of what a server is," Carlat said. "We also see this as a way to deepen our partnership with VMware and really focus on integrating these two technologies together. Instead of dropping it in after the server is already shipped, we are working on integrating our management tools with the virtualization technology at the start."