VMware’s embedded ESX Server 3i marks a change for virtualization, but how it will impact users is an open question.
Virtualization users’ beloved esxRanger from Vizioncore is no longer; it’s now vRanger. Similarly, esxCharter is vCharter, esxReplicator is vReplicator, esxMigrator is vMigrator and so on.
In fact, the Vizioncore suite is no longer limited to those four afore-mentioned products. Vizioncore is also inheriting software from Invirtus (which like Vizioncore, is also owned by Quest Software), thus expanding the suite to include vOptimizer (formerly Invirtus VM Optimizer), vConverter (Formerly Invirtus Enterprise VM Converter) and vPackager (formerly Invirtus Libra).
The name change, said Vizioncore CEO David Bieneman, reflects the company’s decision to no longer just focus on VMware ESX, but on virtualization in general. “Even though the majority of our product development will be focused on VMware, Invirtus also runs on Virtual Iron and Microsoft platforms, and [the platforms] are easily portable to XenSource,” he said.
As part of its VMworld blitz, Vizioncore also announced its new Vizioncore Alliance Partner Program (VAPP), whose founding members include three storage vendors: EqualLogic, DataCore and Data Domain.
And don’t think that Vizioncore has given up on actual product development. Bieneman said that vRanger is now 50% faster at backing up physical servers and converting them into a VMware format, and that new integration with Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) will help Vizioncore create more reliable backups of VMs running applications like SQL Server and Exchange. Before VSS integration, “backing up VMs via snapshot was only crash-consistent,” he explained, but with mission-critical applications such as these, “you need a better [recovery point objective]” than crash consistency can give.
We just published a list of the finalists for this year’s Best of VMworld Awards.
Hurry over to the VMworld Award landing page to see if your favorite virtualization software made the list.
Check back this coming Wednesday to find out who the Gold winners are, and who we name as a runner up.
Today, XenSource became the first vendor to officially announce support of an embedded hypervisor. Specific independent hardware vendors (IHVs) are not mentioned in the announcement, but I expect that we will all hear more details soon enough. While VMware has been rumored to have something cooking for months, they have yet to make any official announcement about their plans for an embedded hypervisor. Considering that VMworld starts next week, the timing of the XenSource announcement should not be considered coincidental.
So if you believe the VMware rumors and expect them to take a public stance at VMworld, that places two vendors in the embedded hypervisor club. If you think for a second that Microsoft will also not be a member, you’re fooling yourself. Next year, I expect that IHVs will ship an embedded Windows Server Virtualization Service running on the Windows Server 2008 Core OS.
So by the end of 2008, as I see it, three virtualization platforms will be available to ship on server hardware. Organizations deploying SAN-based virtualization solutions will be able to purchase servers with no internal hard disks and a hypervisor that resides in flash memory. To me, the movement to hypervisors that ship on the bare metal may impact how organizations purchase servers in the future. Instead of selecting an OS, they can pre-order a server with an embedded hypervisor.
So based on the XenSource announcement coupled with the fact that VMware and Microsoft embedded hypervisors, in my opinion, are foregone conclusions, we now know of three vendors in the embedded hypervisor club. Club meetings will likely be hosted by HP, IBM, and Dell servers, at a minimum (I’m basing my speculation on server market share). Now the question that we must consider is what will the impact be for virtualization vendors that are not yet in the club. Those vendors include Virtual Iron, Red Hat, and Novell. Membership may not guarantee success, but it sure doesn’t hurt either.
Rumors of an embedded VMware ESX have been circulating for some time, but yesterday, XenSource Inc. beat VMware to the punch with the announcement of an embedded version of its own hypervisor, XenExpress OEM Edition. At under 128K, the hypervisor can be pre-installed by server manufacturers on disk or in flash memory, and will enable IT administrators to run Xen, Microsoft or VMware virtual machines (VMs) out of the box.
John Bara, XenSource vice president of marketing, expects XenExpress OEM Edition to dramatically increase Xen’s footprint in the server marketplace. “By the end of 2008, I expect one-half of the server volume worldwide to have [XenExpress OEM Edition] as an option,” he said, accelerating the penetration of their existing XenExpress by 20X.
Bara said that XenSource is working with “five or six” major server OEMs, and will be making several announcements about their identities in the next 60 days. In the press release, Dell issued a supporting statement, although it did not specifically say it would offer the embedded XenSource hypervisor.
Of course, the embedded XenExpress hypervisor has limited functionality in and of itself. However, it is license-key upgradeable to the full edition of XenEnterprise, complete with XenMotion live migraiton, XenCenter management, resource pooling, and Symantec Storage Foundation integration.
Burton Group Senior analyst Chris Wolf said that the XenExpress OEM Edition news was “some slick PR” on XenSource’s behalf, and that assuming VMware and Microsoft follow suit with embedded hypervisors of their own, showed that “it was changing how the [independent hardware vendors] ship hypervisors.” At the same time, he wondered where all this left the likes of Novell, RedHat and Virtual Iron. “They’re not part of the club right now.”
Virtugo, the company formerly known as UXcomm and pronounced Vertigo, has announced VirtualSuite 6.0, which includes adds modules targeted at capacity planning, chargeback, and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to its flagship Optimize and Perform performance monitoring packages.
The suite will be on display next week at VMworld in San Francisco.
Virtugo Capacity monitors a virtual environment over time, then generates reports that identify bottlenecks and trends, helping IT administrators determine how to position virtual machines within their environments. Virtguo Meter enables chargeback by showing “what customers are actually consuming,” said Chris Dickson, Virtugo vice president of marketing, while tying in to service levels established by Optimize and Perform. Virtugo VDI, meanwhile, helps administrators manage the lifecyle of a virtual desktop, including asset discovery, audits, reporting and patch management.
In addition, Dickson said that Optimize now works across ESX hosts, and has been expanded to understand VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and resource pools.
Optimize allows you “to shape shift based on the demands of the application, rather than just go cookie cutter,” Dickson said.
VirtualSuite is available immediately for $1699. Individual modules are sold separately for $349.
Among the more intriguing products that will be demonstrated at VMworld is InovaWave’s VirtualOctane, the new VMware ESX version of its DXtreme, which was only available for Microsoft platforms (e.g., VMware Virtual Server and Microsoft Virtual Server). Announced this week, VirtualOctane uses an adaptive I/O optimization engine to dramatically improve performance of virtualized applications. With it, InovaWave claims it will be able to help companies either:
- Increase (as much as double) the number of virtual machines (VMs) per ESX host;
- Improve the performance of existing VMs; or
- Enable the virtualization of transaction-heavy workloads.
It’s on that last point that InovaWave is particularly bullish. For its beta users, InovaWave has recruited shops with “significant investments in ESX” to test out the use of VirtualOctane against workloads such as ERP, databases and high-volume messaging applications – “applications that heretofore have not been virtualized,” said Chris Ostertag, InovaWave president and CEO.
If DXtreme user experiences are any indication, InovaWave might be on to something. But InovaWave won’t be giving away all this goodness for free. When VirtualOctane goes GA in October, Ostertag anticipates it will have a price tag of about $3,500 per socket, effectively doubling the cost of a VMware ESX license. You get what you pay for, I guess.
[By Bridget Botelho, News Writer]
The Opalis Process Catalog for Virtualization manages virtualized environments, helps IT monitor management costs, services and virtual machines.
The Toronto-based company’s Process Catalog for Virtualization includes specific IT services enabling customers to automate services, and is supported by major virtualization providers.
All the automated processes are based on ITIL v2 and ITIL v3 best practices, including the following:
- Fault management. Determines the root cause of virtual and physical machine errors and automates diagnostic procedures and corrective actions.
- Provisioning lifecycle. Commissions and decommissions virtual servers automatically and across the provisioning lifecycle in response to service requests.
- Server compliance. To enable server compliance, automates patching, software development and server audit remediation among online and offline virtual servers.
- Maintenance. Automates virtual server and file cleanup for expired images.
- Backup and recovery. Automates backup and recovery procedures.
The Opalis Process Catalog for Virtualization will be available in Q4 2007. Customers can view a demonstration at Opalis booth #1222 during VMworld 2007 in San Francisco, Sept. 11-13.
Chris Wolf, Burton Group senior analyst, analyzed Citrix’s acquisition of XenSource in a recent Burton Group blog post. He sizes up the situation, saying:
“While having the technology is one thing, bringing it to market is an entirely separate issue. This is where the Citrix acquisition makes great sense for XenSource. Financially fueled by Citrix, XenSource now has the financial clout, sales, and channel resources to go after the large stake of unclaimed virtualization market share in the enterprise. Don’t get me wrong. This will not be easy, as Citrix and XenSource are competing against powerhouse vendors with strong sales, channel, and IHV partnerships. VMware, Microsoft, Red Hat, and Novell are well established in the enterprise, and are all looking to add to their share of the market. Virtual Iron has been making a lot of noise in the SMB space lately, and they should see the explosion of the XenSource sales channel as a serious threat.”
Wolf sees the acquisition as a win for Citrix and Xen and for users, too.
“In the coming months and years, we should expect to get enterprise-class virtualization technologies at lower costs, with more features, and a motivated group of vendors that are eager to push innovation to remain competitive.”
Read his blog in its entirety on the Burton Group Data Center Strategies blog.
XenSource is now going to be a part of Citrix, an interesting move that answers a question that a lot of Citrix aficionados, myself included, were wondering – “What is Citrix doing to remain relevant in the face of Virtual Desktops?”. Virtual Desktops are what this is really all about. Citrix is not a server company, it’s a delivery company. In terms of quality and speed, you can make the comparison that Citrix is the FedEx of bits and bytes, if you will, to Micrsoft’s US Post Office. Citrix, with its ICA protocol, is like FedEx in that it is faster, more full-featured, and more expensive than the trustworthy old Post Office of RDP. Citrix may make a line of server products, but their business is in getting applications into the hands of end-users regardless of distance, client operating system, link speed, and other factors that typically inhibit deployment. Whether this is done by granting remote access to applications over the web, over a proprietary protocol, or any other method has been irrelevant to Citrix for some time – they adapted quickly to the web, enabling ICA-delivered application delivery as early as MetaFrame 1.8 in the late 90’s. What was always a problem in the Citrix world was the full desktop – Citrix’s own CCA (Citrix Certified Administrator, a cert I hold near and dear) training pushes for application delivery over desktop delivery, and for good reason. Presentation Server, the successor to MetaFrame (which was the successor to WinFrame) runs on a Windows server, and there are as many inherent risks of letting people have remote desktops on a server as one can imagine, not the least of which is registry corruption and accidentally deleted files that can hose the entire server, as well as disk space issues. Imagine 50 users saving the same 200MB PDF or PPT of the company’s end-of-fiscal-year financial report on their desktop instead of a network file directory, and you can see how the problem would start. Couple in the complexities of antivirus / antimalware and you can picture the resource spikes every morning at 9am when 20 users log on and the AV program starts running it’s at-logon full computer scan 20 times. While some AV products are Citrix / Terminal Services aware and can be configured not to do this, that’s the exception, not the rule – most often the schedules need to be changed from the default of daily scanning on logon that many companies use and adjusted to only a once-daily at a fixed (off-hours) time. Then of course there’s the resource issue – one errant application that cpu-locks the box takes it away from everyone, because it’s all really just one computer. While Citrix has made many inroads to mitigating these problems, they still exist, and make full-featured Citrix desktops hard to manage and hard to justify on a large scale.
What XenSource adds to the Citrix portfolio is a virtual desktop platform without the caveats of the delivered desktop being part of the same server OS as the application – each desktop can be shunted off onto shared storage, is it’s own contained OS, and can be delivered seamlessly without other users vying for resources. There are still resource issues to contend with such as CPU locking, but because virtualization allows for greater restrictions on access to the physical hardware, these can mitigated faster and without large-scale interruption. The same applies to memory locking, but to an even greater extent – since a VM has X-amount of memory, you can lock it all up and not affect the other virtual machines much at all. No doubt Citrix is working on perfecting desktop delivery of Xen-based desktops over ICA. Likewise Citrix is no doubt working on integrating their already-impressive management tools (MetaFrame XPe even had a configurable chargeback function built in from it’s initial release!) to make managing Xen desktops easier. What’s further is that this gives Citrix a hedge against the possibility of Linux desktops making significant inroads into the enterprise market in the next few years. Instead of depending on Windows, Citrix has just become open to delivering multiple flavors of Linux, BSD, and many other operating systems to users who need them.
What about running Citrix on Windows on Xen host servers? I don’t think Citrix cares one way or the other if you do – it’s still a license for the software regardless of whether the host is virtual or physical, so other than a marketing play about getting scalability on virtual hardware, there’s not much advantage to be seen. Thin Clients? Citrix doesn’t sell them, but they have very cozy relations with all the TC vendors out there, especially Wyse. Wyse has already made great inroads with VMware virtual desktops, and it’s sure to follow that they’ll support Xen desktops as well.
What if I’m wrong? It’s a good possibility. And I’m sure that Citrix sees the other side of the coin – the death of the full-featured desktop as we know it, with a glorified web browser supplanting it. Indeed, this would be the ideal Semantic Web / Web 2.0 client operating system – all applications occurring in a browser, with nothing on the user’s side that can really break, or take a long time rebooting, or need a lot of skill to repair, or require complex driver slipstreaming into images, etc. etc. Just a browser and some horsepower to help the client-side of the web-applications get processed is all anyone would need for an all-web-application environment. This is basically just a distributed thin client, with a slimmed down OS and remote application delivery. This just happens to also be the business Citrix has been supporting for decades. Many of these applications, so thin to the end-user, are fairly large on the server side, and being able to provide virtualization of those apps will keep Citrix relevant when the user’s choice of client no longer matters because everything is designed for web delivery. Right now that’s a selling point for Citrix – they have an ICA client for almost every OS out there, giving people on Linux access to Windows apps without messing with WINE, giving remote users with limited bandwidth access to giant client-server applications. They have web-enabled gateways to allow this to happen over a browser (with a plugin). The trouble with ICA is that if the need for specialized software to connect to remote systems diminishes as more and more applications because browser-based, the need for such a system dependent on plugins and other protocols wanes, leaving Citrix’s ICA out in the lurch. So, either way the cookie crumbles, Citrix has a smart, effective strategy for maintaining relevence.
There are many questions unanswered, such as what will happen to future Xen development? Will Citrix close any new Xen code or keep it Open Source? What will happen to Virtual Iron? Will Xen fork? What will happen to the long-standing but sometimes strained relationship between Citrix and Microsoft? Stayed tuned… this is an interesting time for virtualization and Citrix followers, and I would expect a lot more blogging, reporting, and gossiping about what this means in the very near future. IT Managers should keep an eye on their Virtual Desktop initiatives, for sure. Overall, I would expect this to be a very positive thing for virtualization on the server, desktop, and application front. Disruptive, no doubt, but positive.