VMware is preparing several updates to its Virtual Infrastructure 3 suite, including a laundry list of additional features to its ESX hypervisor designed to offer the companys customers greater flexibility when it comes to networking and memory-intense workloads.
The Palo Alto, Calif. virtualization company unveiled details on Oct. 8 of the latest version of ESX Server—ESX Server 3.5—as well as additional updates to its VirtualCenter management software. In addition, VMware is offering new packaging and pricing arrangements specifically geared toward small and midsized business customers.
The groundwork for these new features started at last months VMworld Conference in San Francisco, where Diane Greene, the companys president and CEO, detailed the new ESX 3i hypervisor, a bare-metal piece of software that has been designed small enough to fit onto a flash chip and that can be embedded directly into servers and storage hardware.
The same features now included on the larger ESX Server 3.5 will also be included on ESX 3i, said Bogomil Balkansky, the senior director of product marketing at VMware. These additions, he said, will add greater ability for running network-intensive workloads.
“They represent a major enhancement across the entire stack or the entire suite of VMwares Infrastructure,” Balkansky added. “Starting with the platform or the hypervisor, the major news was unveiled at VMworld, which was the next generation, thin hypervisor 3i, but besides that we are unveiling a number of performance and scalability enhancements that will be contained in both the ESX Server and the ESX Server 3i that will allow customers to run more network-intensive and memory-intensive workloads.”
Mark Bowker, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, said the most impressive part of the new features is that these tools will be available on both the updated version of the ESX Server as well as the ESX Server 3i.
“I think this helps people recognize that its not just about products, or speed to market, or a hypervisor, but the community that VMware has developed and what it is involving into,” Bowker said.
The new features within VMwares Virtual Infrastructure suite should come to market by years end. Although the company did not provide a specific date, some Web sites have indicated a December release.
The new features of the hypervisor include support for various network and storage offerings, including 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Infiniband and SATA (Serial ATA) local storage. In addition, there is also now support for TCP segment offload and Jumbo frames that expand network throughput and performance.
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On the memory side of the equation, VMware has increased the amount of virtual machine RAM that hypervisor can support from 16GB to 64GB and the company has also increased the physical memory that the hypervisor can support from 64GB to 128GB, Balkansky said.
“This all allows customers to run memory and network I/O intensive workloads,” Balkansky said.
Within the infrastructure itself, VMware is adding a new feature dubbed Storage VMotion, which performs much the same function as VMotion only it allows users to move the virtual machine disk file from one physical storage array to another while the virtual machine continues to run.
Since VMware will support a number of different storage arrays, Balkansky said that new Storage VMotion, like its VMotion counterpart, will help users during planned downtime, such as workload rebalancing or replacing or upgrading a new storage system within the network, without having to take the virtual servers down.
In the future, Bowker believes that VMware will continue to expand this feature and eventually allow users to move applications and virtual machines through different tiers of storage, depending on their needs.
In addition, VMware is offering a feature dubbed Update Manager, which automates patch and update management for both the ESX Server physical hosts and the virtual machines. This additional scans the inventory and ensures both the physical and virtual machines are in compliance with all patches.
The Update Manager is integrated with DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduler), which aggregates the hardware into a virtual pool and allocates the resources to applications running in virtual machines. By combining the two, VMware is looking to reduce any downtime within the host server. VMware is also adding another feature onto the DRS called Distributed Power Management, which will squeeze as many virtual machines onto as few physical servers as possible. The physical machines not in use can then power down during off hours.
With the 2.5 version of VirtualCenter, which also debuts on Monday, VMware has added a feature that looks to attract smaller business with fewer IT resources. This feature, called Guided Consolidation, uses tools and step-by-step instructions to take a business through an analysis of physical servers, target applications for virtualization and then handle the physical-to-virtual conversion.
VMware will also roll out a series of kits for small businesses that offer a range of features and licenses that range in price from $2,995 for the basic kit to $14,495 for the more advance set of features. Balkansky said that part of the reason VMware is offering packages geared toward SMBs is that these business are seeing the benefits of virtualization.
“Virtual Infrastructure 3 is being widely adopted in mid-market and smaller companies because of the benefits it provides around optimizing the use of server assets, simplifying IT management, and providing higher levels of availability and disaster recovery,” Balkansky said.
On the enterprise side, the updated Virtual Infrastructure 3 packages will range from $995 per two processors for the basic or “Foundation” suite to $5,750 per two processors for the advanced packages that contains all the features, including the new Storage VMotion.
In addition, VMware has released the pricing for ESX Server 3i for the first time. If customers chose to buy the hypervisor as a stand alone piece of software, it will cost $495 per two processors.