Virtualisation heads for the hardware

Virtualisation technology took a big step towards ubiquity yesterday as VMware unveiled an embedded version of its ESX virtual machine manager at VMWorld 2007 in San Francisco, and immediately attracted the endorsement of five leading hardware makers.

ESX Server 3i, a reduced footprint version of ESX designed to be deployed in a 32MB Flash memory module, will ship as a default feature of new servers from Dell,  Fujitsu-Siemens, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and NEC from November.

The launch of embedded virtual machine manager (VMM) software, and its immediate endorsement by five of the world’s leading server vendors, is likely to greatly accelerate the deployment of virtualisation technology. 

Unveiling the ESX 3i yesterday, VMware’s president and CEO Diane Greene,  said virtualisation would no longer be an optional software extension to physical resources. “It is now a component of the hardware” she said.

According to IDC, virtualisation deployment is growing at a compound rate of 43% per year,  and the analyst company expects 15% of all new servers to ship with VMM on board in 2010, compared to 5% in 2005.

VMware executives argue that these projections are highly conservative, and should be revised upwards. “I believe it [virtualisation] will be ubiquitous within three to five years,” Greene said.

The enthusiasm that hardware vendors, including the two x86 chip makers, Intel and AMD, also runs counter to some analyst expectations, which warn of a downturn in physical server and server processors sales as customers continue to optimize and consolidate.

However, Hector Ruiz, chairman and CEO of AMD, said hardware vendors had no choice but to innovate through increased support for virtualisation,  and said that “innovation that is good for the customer is good for the supplier to.” Already today, he said, “customers are buying servers that cost twice as much as before,  because they are more richly configured.”

AMD, which finally launched its long delayed, and virtualisation-friendly Barcelona chip on Monday, is gambling that its support for virtualisation will help it regain market impetus – as does one of its first Barcelona customers, Dell.

Dell will be the first vendor to ship ESX 3i when it delivers the first of its new Veso line of “virtualisation-ready” servers in November.

The new Veso underlines Ruiz’s forecast that physical platform’s for virtual machines will be “richly configured.” As well as being built around two AMD Barcelona quad-core processors the Veso “will have twice the memory of our previous two socket configurations, and twice the I/O” said Dell’s chief marketing officer, Mark Jarvis.

IBM, HP, NEC and Fujitsu-Siemens all also offered similarly “richly configured” visions of how their first ESX 3i products will look when they arrive later this year.

Henry Catchpole

Henry Catchpole runs Inform Direct, a company records management software company which simplifies the process of dealing with Companies House. The business was set up in 2013.

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