In-Depth

Tech-Ed Highlights Virtualization Vendors

As virtualization's popularity grows, so, too, does the presence of virtualization vendors at Microsoft's annual Tech-Ed North America conference. This year's show promises to feature more of them than ever, giving attendees the chance to sample more virtualization technologies.

The front page of Microsoft's Tech-Ed North America 2009 Web site trumpets the theme "smart ideas for today's challenges." And that's a sensible, grounded and entirely reasonable idea-focus on how to make the best of a difficult economy.

That tagline could have been written for the multitude of vendors producing virtualization products, which will be showing off their wares at Microsoft's biggest party.

In this Tech-Ed preview, we take a look at some of the third-party vendors pushing virtualization innovation-and innovation in other areas-in Microsoft's world by previewing what they'll be announcing and demonstrating May 11-15 at the show in Los Angeles.

VMware Inc. (vmware.com)
Even though they're increasingly bitter virtualization rivals, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based titan will have a presence at Microsoft's Tech-Ed. VMware's focus will be vSphere, which the company calls the industry's first cloud operating system.

Rick Vanover, online columnist for Virtualization Review magazine, noted recently that vSphere offers "new support for thin-provisioned disks from ESX 4. ESX 3 did not offer thin provisioning by default, but it was possible through the vmkfstools command."

Vanover expands further on the impact of vSphere: "Looking forward to ESX 4, VMware shops have an advantage due to the Virtual Machine File System (or vStorage VMFS), which can get you out of a jam. One of the new features coming in vSphere is Enhanced Storage VMotion, which permits a conversion from a fully provisioned virtual disk to a thin-provisioned virtual disk."

Citrix Inc. (citrix.com)
It's no surprise that Citrix is a Gold Sponsor of Tech-Ed, and figures to have a large presence at the show. It's partnering with Microsoft more closely than any other company on the virtualization front.

Virtualization products from Citrix and Microsoft fully interoperate and complement each companies' offerings. For instance, the Citrix Essentials suite of software provides the technology to help Hyper-V, Microsoft's hypervisor, move into the enterprise. Microsoft, for its part, provides the management framework for Essentials. Citrix also provides the full desktop virtualization experience that Microsoft lacks.

Raxco Software Inc. (perfectdisk.com)
The provider of disk defragmentation software, based in Gaithersburg, Md., rolled out its PerfectDisk 10 line of storage management products in January and will make it the focus of the company's presence at this year's Tech-Ed.

The main new wrinkle in the PerfectDisk fold is PerfectDisk 10 Virtual Enterprise Edition, which provides, as the company noteses in a statement, "virtual awareness to enterprise disk defragmentation." The new product works with virtual products such as VMware's ESX Server and Microsoft's Hyper-V, and automatically determines how often it should run a defragmentation session based on the resources the physical host has at a given time.
Virtual Enterprise Edition, released in February, is available starting at $249.99. It and the other PerfectDisk 10 products are available online.

DataCore Software Corp. (Datacore.com)
DataCore will travel from sunny Fort Lauderdale, Fl., to sunny Los Angeles with what the company calls its "Pimp My Storage" crew. The crew will bring down half an IT department's storage infrastructure. The mystery for attendees will be to find out whether the system's virtual machines keep working.

The company will also be showing off new capabilities it announced in April, including 64-bit "mega chaches," as the company calls them, which highlight its new SANmelody 3.0 and SANsymphony 7.0 products. With the new products, a SAN-wide cache will now hold the entire working set of a large number of virtual machines.

Another new option in both products is Transporter, a migration facility that, DataCor says, "migrates disk images and workloads between different operating systems, hypervisors and storage subsystems-eliminating lengthy backups and restores due to complicated format conversions."

SteelEye Technology (steeleye.com)
Down from Menlo Park, Calif., comes SteelEye Technology, which will be demonstrating the latest version of DataKeeper Cluster Edition. The software offers high availability and disaster recovery by working with Hyper-V and Windows Server Failover Clustering.

Greg Ewald, vice president of marketing for SteelEye, says at Tech-Ed the company will show how DataKeeper Cluster Edition handles "'Quick Migration' of live running Microsoft Hyper-V virtual machines from coast to coast ... replicating clustered SQL Server running in Hyper-V VMs across data centers, [and] Hyper-V, WSFC and DataKeeper Cluster Edition working together to provide simple and powerful disaster recovery for Exchange 2007."

Previews of the demos are available at the company's Web site.

Marathon Technologies Corp. (marathontechnologies.com)
Marathon and Microsoft announced in January a development and marketing deal aimed at using virtualization to provide fault-tolerant and high-availability computing for enterprise customers running applications on Windows server. The agreement includes enhanced compatibility between Marathon's everRun fault-tolerance software line and Windows Server 2008, as well as other development objectives.

At at Tech-Ed, Littleton, Mass.-based Marathon, will, according to company officials, "present a joint session on Microsoft clustering technology and Marathon's extension of Windows Server high availability to continuous availability through software fault tolerance."

Lieberman Software Corp. (liebsoft.com)
Lieberman will be right at home in L.A., given that its corporate headquarters are located in the city on the aptly named Avenue of the Stars. The star for Lieberman at Tech-Ed will be Enterprise Random Password Manager, its also aptly named password-management product.

An update to the product to be unveiled at Tech-Ed will offer privileged account password management from within the consoles of Microsoft System Center Operations Manager and System Center Configuration Manager. The update will enable security recovery of administrator passwords directly from Systems Center, company officials say.

Sanbolic Inc. (sanbolic.com)
Sanbolic will announce at Tech-Ed that it's adding distributed snapshots to Melio fs, its clustered file system. Also in the product there will be a generic Visual SafeSource (VSS) provider, available from both physical and virtual servers when Sanbolic's file system is in use, which third-party data-protection products can invoke.

The company, based in Watertown, Mass., will also publish APIs for scripting and scheduling the VSS provider. In addition, Sanbolic is making it possible for users to invoke Melio or a third-party VSS provider from the company's data-protection software, called Simple Information Lifecycle Provider (SILM). SILM will now bring better capabilities for scripting and scheduling.

Touting Its Own Virtualization Solutions

Although third parties dominate this in this Tech-Ed previewissue, the show is, after all, still a Microsoft event, and Microsoft will have plenty of its own products to showcase. Redmond tends to keep some of its product announcements close to the vest, but company officials have revealed some of what Microsoft will be focusing on at the show.

Among the products that will be on primary display, company officials say, are Windows Server 2008 R2, Operations Manager 2007 R2 (due in May, officials say), Service Manager Beta 2 (due this summer) and System Center Essentials v2 beta public release (due in May or in June). Microsoft will also feature System Center Essentials, the company's midmarket IT management suite, in a special technical session.

Other hot topics, Microsoft folks say, will include Virtual Machine Manager 2008 and Virtualization, System Center data center solutions and the Server Management Suite Enterprise and System Center community and influencer programs.

System Center will clearly get plenty of the spotlight at Tech-Ed. Much of the messaging around the product line will involve what one Microsoft product manager called "cost-efficiency," or, quite simply, how System Center helps contain IT infrastructure management costs.

As for other noteworthy events, Microsoft Learning will be distributing to all attendees at the conference vouchers worth 50 percent off a certification exam.
-- L.P.

Special Operations Software (specopssoft.com)
All the way from Stockholm, with U.S. headquarters in Portsmouth, N.H., comes Special Operations Software with its Specops Virtual Deploy product. This new offering works with Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) to deploy applications virtually using Group Policy.

Thorbjörn Sjövold, CTO of Special Operations Software, explains: "We're taking the concept of Microsoft App-V and making it more simple for users than it is today. We let you use Group Policy to deploy virtual bubbles."

Those "bubbles," Sjövold notes, let users make changes to applications without changing anything in the operating system itself. With Virtual Deploy, "what you can do with App-V is take Office 2003 and virtualize it," Sjövold says. "[Office 2003] is a bubble that lives inside its own little world. Whatever you change inside Office 2003, it doesn't affect the operating system.

"You pick your bubbles and deploy them out there," Sjövold continues. "The good thing about Group Policy is that everybody knows how to use it. Since we don't require any infrastructure, you're up and running as soon as you have your first bubble."

Johan Ögren, president of the company's North American operation, adds that Special Operations Software will be giving away gold bars at its Tech-Ed booth. "The marketing message this year is all about gold," he says. "We believe our products are solid investments."

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