VMware Gets a Face-Lift

For companies struggling with hardware costs, server management headaches and data center space constraints, server virtualization is a no-brainer. Not only does it save on hardware, as it enables users to host several virtual servers on a single hardware machine, but it provides huge gains in flexibility, fail-over and redundancy.

Until now, the main name in virtualization has always been VMware. But with Citrix Systems Inc. buying up XenSource and Microsoft releasing the beta of its Hyper-V virtualization technology a bit early, the competition is beginning to heat up. And VMware is responding to the pressure with an upgrade that addresses several perceived shortcomings in its virtualization arsenal.

VMware's Infrastructure 3 (VI3), which includes both ESX Server 3.5 and Virtual Center 2.5, now offers new features aimed at shoring up its performance, availability and overall ease of management.

VMware Inc.

VMware Infrastructure 3
Dec. 11, 2007

Key Features
-- Performance improvements
-- Guided Consolidation wizard
-- Live migration of virtual disks from one storage system to another
-- Automated patching and updating of virtual machines

-- Open source Xen hypervisor, now owned by Citrix Systems Inc.
-- Microsoft's Hyper-V within Windows Server 2008

Upgrade improves performance and makes Intel-based virtualization easier to roll out and manage

For example, VI3 now supports larger memory pages, TCP Segmentation Offload and jumbo frames, all aimed at increasing performance. Beyond performance, however, the new version sports new features aimed at making virtualization easier to roll out and manage. Specifically, it has a new Guided Consolidation wizard, which automatically discovers physical servers, identifies consolidation candidates, converts them to virtual machines (VMs) and intelligently places them onto the optimal VMware ESX Server or VMware Server hosts, significantly easing a virtualization rollout. VI3 also makes working with storage easier via the new Storage VMotion feature, which lets you migrate live virtual disks from one storage system to another. Finally, the new VI3 eases overall management via a new automated patching- and update-management tool that tracks patch levels and applies the latest security fixes.

The Competition
VMware's VI3 is the oldest and most feature-rich virtualization tool currently available, although Citrix's XenSource and Microsoft's Hyper-V are giving chase.

XenSource's Xen is open source virtualization software that rivals VMware in terms of capabilities, especially in its Linux support. But being open source, it lags behind VMware in stability and support, two features that should change now that Citrix is supporting it.

Microsoft's Hyper-V, released in beta in December, is scheduled to be available within six months of the release of Windows Server 2008, scheduled for Feb. 27. Still, its features are not on par with VMware. For example, it supports Quick Migration, which allows an admin to migrate a VM from one physical machine to another with what Microsoft terms "minimal downtime," while VMware offers live migration of VMs without any user interruption.

Marketing and Sales
On its Web site, the company offers several ways to get up to speed to sell its virtualization products. On VMware's Resources page, partners can view live and recorded events and read up on virtualization, its benefits and how VMware stacks up against the competition. The company also offers three levels of reseller partnerships, outlined on its VIP Reseller Overview page. Levels range from Professional Partners, which are only required to complete some online training but then can only resell certain versions of VMware, to Premier Partners, which can sell the breadth of the VMware product line but are required to have dedicated technical, sales and support resources for VMware. Currently, VMware boasts 8,600 indirect channel partners, and the company says that it plans to increase that number to 11,000 in 2008.

VMware also offers a certification program by which partners can become VMware Certified Professionals (VCPs). The company currently claims 1,500 VCPs.

The Final Word
Server virtualization is an easy way to solve your customers' hardware, space and flexibility conundrums. With the latest upgrade to VI3, VMware makes both rolling out and managing virtualization easier-both for you and your customers.

About the Author

Joanne Cummings is principal writer and editor for Cummings Ltd., a freelance editorial firm based in North Andover, Mass.