IBM Readies New Virtualization Tools

The company will launch the latest version of its z/VM virtualization software and will also unveil a new secure architecture for hypervisors.

IBM is preparing to ramp up its virtualization capabilities on Feb. 6.

The Armonk, N.Y., company is using the IDC Virtualization Forum in New York City to launch two new products aimed at increasing its presence within the virtualization field with new security software and tools for mainframe virtualization.

On the security front, IBM is offering what it calls secure architecture for virtual hypervisors used with x86 and blade servers. In one way, IBM is trying to offer customers the same type of security that can be found in traditional mainframe servers—a space where the company is the dominant presence.

This architecture, which company executives are calling Secure Hypervisor, or "sHype," will work as an embedded tool that wraps around a hypervisor to better secure a virtualized workload.

As workloads—whether an operating system, application or middleware—are migrated from either a physical machine to virtual machine or from one virtual machine to another, the Secure Hypervisor will also migrate with the workload and provide the same set of security measures that were originally constructed to protect the data.

"The idea behind this is to have mandatory access control," said Kevin Leahy, director of virtualization for IBM. "Its something that is always there and theres no way to get around it."

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IBMs Secure Hypervisor architecture will work with proprietary hypervisors or with open-source hypervisors, such as Xen. IBM also plans to release portions of sHype to the open-source community, where it can be used as part of the open-source Xen hypervisor kernel.

With a traditional security firewall on a server, there is no guarantee the firewall will be properly migrated and moved to the right spot during virtualization, Leahy explained. By embedding sHype with the hypervisor, the policies and security established by the IT administrator will move with the workload and provide security directly into the virtualization software layer.

Once the security configurations, policies and exceptions have been set by an IT administrator, sHype will then lock those specifications with the configuration needed to run a workload, which will create a more secure environment as applications or operating systems are migrated through virtualization.

In addition to the sHype, IBM will launch an updated version of its z/VM virtualization technology for mainframes. The product release not only allows IBM to push its virtualization tools but also re-emphasizes its plan to tout mainframe servers as a more mainstream alternative in the data center.

According to recent reports by Gartner and IDC, the server market grew at a healthy pace in the third quarter of 2006. During that quarter, IBM showed that it was able to capitalize on its mainframe business and the company picked up a significant number of sales in that space.

The latest version of z/VM will now support up to 32 processors and offer users 128GB of memory, which will allow the software to host more than 1,000 virtual images, Leahy said.

The latest version of z/VM, which will be released June 29, allows servers to be turned into multiple partitions, or "virtual" Linux servers. The latest version, which allows the use of more processors and memory, gives a 33 percent increase compared to previous releases.

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research in Haywood, Calif., said that with virtualization becoming such a critical part of IT infrastructure, IBM is trying to distinguish itself from other vendors, such as Microsoft, VMware and Virtual Iron, which have mostly stayed within the x86 server space.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to find out what Intel and IBM are doing to improve virtualization in the data center.

Since IBM owns the majority of the worlds mainframe market, the company is trying to show that mainframes can offer the same or better capabilities than what can be found in blades and x86 servers.

"Its really important for them to get the word out there and let people know what the capabilities of the System z mainframe offering are," King said. "This isnt a knock on x86 virtualization, but when you talk about hosting a thousand images on the mainframe, people sit up and listen."

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