The Virtualization Room

Jan 30 2008   10:18PM GMT

Technosium 2008: FastScale Composer’s cool virtual server deployment

Rick Vanover Rick Vanover Profile: Rick Vanover


Today at the Technosium Global Conference and Expo in Santa Clara, Calif., I saw a cool demonstration of FastScale Composer at work deploying virtual (and physical) servers.

FastScale Technologies Inc., maker of Composer, is a VMware alliance partner. FastScale Composer is a tool that facilitiates building physical and virtual servers from bare metal with a configurable inventory of operating systems, applications and updates. FastScale Composer is suited for data centers with 250 servers or more.

I met with FastScale CEO Lynn LeBlanc and Richard Offer, vice president of engineering, who discussed FastScale Composer’s key feature:  a software component repository that contains operating system binaries, software packages, updates and user-configurable material available for systems.

Within the Composer interface, systems are allocated with your configured inventory to be used when they boot. The underlying technology for arriving new systems is a pre-boot execution (PXE) environment that will have the configuration for the system delivered. Composer excels at this step because the package that arrives to the new system is just what’s needed. For example, in a demo I saw, a base Linux install for a Red Hat system arrived to the system as only an 8 MB image via PXE. While that is not an entire installation, the full inventory is made available to the servers via the respository.

What impressed me is this: Should any element of the system need something from the repository, it is automatically retrieved. Also, servers can be built without the need to retrieve from the repository if you want everything available locally or the repository not be available.

FastScale also has an interface into VMware. While you can perform traditional PXE builds on virtual systems as you would on physical systems, FastScale Composer’s Virtual Manager plug-in will populate new servers directly to VMware ESX. The Virtual Manager option to Composer will allow a virtual machine to be created as VMDK files and imported to ESX or VMware server. A small agent is required on at least one ESX server to receive the VMDK from Composer.

LeBlanc and Offer told me that a new version of FastScale Composer, coming soon, will incorporate Microsft Windows version support and an improved interface.  For more information or to arrange a demo, visit the FastScale web site.

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