VMwares Virtual Infrastructure 3 offers enterprises an impressive, mature framework for making virtualizations promises a reality.
eWEEK Labs installed VMwares ESX Server, which forms the foundation of Virtual Infrastructure 3, onto a variety of Intel- and Advanced Micro Devices-powered servers.
We bound the boxes together under VMwares VirtualCenter management server. From there, we installed several Linux, Windows and Solaris virtual machines onto our ESX hosts, and we were pleased with how the ESX/VirtualCenter duo enabled us to fine-tune our VM implementations.
Companies looking to consolidate single-application servers, to squeeze more out of under-utilized hardware, to extend the availability of their networked services or to get a surer handle on the machines in their data centers would do well to evaluate Virtual Infrastructure 3, which can deliver compelling results in any of these scenarios.
Our experience with VI3 (or Virtual Infrastructure 3.0.1, to be exact) was not, however, devoid of rough patches. For one thing, we were disappointed by the Windows centricity of VI3s management tools. In our opinion, one of greatest attributes of VMwares Server,
Player and Workstation products is their support for Linux as well as Windows. In contrast, VI3s Virtual Infrastructure Client runs only on Windows, and the products licensing server also is Windows-only.
Speaking of licensing, we found VMwares product licensing somewhat confusing. In fact, we spent at least as much time poring over VI3 documentation regarding licensing as we spent studying high-end VI3 features such as VMotion live migration.
We turned twice during our testing to the aid of VMware licensing representatives, whom we were able to contact via an instant messaging interface built into VMwares Web site. On the bright side, the licensing representatives were well-equipped to get us pointed in the right direction.
VMwares product line is the clear leader among x86- and x86-64-based server virtualization products, and VI3 is the firms flagship product. We do recommend keeping an eye on the emerging Xen-based offerings from Virtual Iron and XenSource, as well as on the Xen-based functionality thats built into Novells SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Red Hats upcoming Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5. (Stay tuned for eWEEK Labs forthcoming investigation of these Xen-based challengers.)
Also worthy of consideration are the operating system-level virtualization capabilities offered by Sun Microsystems Solaris 10 and the Windows- and Linux-based products from Virtuozzo. Each of these products provides solid resource management controls for virtualization.
A VI3 for all servers
VMware sells VI3 in three different editions: VI3 Starter, which is limited to servers with a maximum of four CPU sockets and 8GB of RAM, does not support SAN (storage area network) or iSCSI storage, and costs $1,000 per pair of CPU sockets; VI3 Standard, which carries no server CPU or RAM limits, supports SAN and iSCSI storage, can expose as many as four virtual processors to guest VMs, and costs $3,750 per pair of CPU sockets; and VI3 Enterprise, which adds support for VMotion live migration, VMware HA (High Availability) guest failover support, VMware DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduler) and VMware Consolidated Backup, costs $5,750 per pair of CPU sockets. For more information on VI3 pricing, go here.
We could issue each of our ESX Servers and our VirtualCenter server their own license file, or we could create one license file containing enough entitlements to run all of our systems and serve up that license file through a Macrovision Flex licensing server running on a Windows system.
Theres a tool on VMwares Web site for converting an activation code into the combination of licenses your company requires. We ran our licensing server from within a VM on one of our ESX Servers. This gave us enough leeway to keep our servers running even during license server reboots, but wed advise setting up a separate license server for production.
During our tests, we explored VI3s Standard Edition functionality, as well as its VMotion capabilities, but we scarcely scratched the surface of the products high availability and dynamic resource balancing attributes. We plan to fully explore these features in a future story.