IBM, MS in Virtualization Push

IBM and Microsoft follow Cisco with virtualization announcements

October 11, 2005

3 Min Read
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The "V" word is gaining traction. Just two weeks after Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) announced its own plans to virtualize the data center, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) have unveiled a roster of new virtualization technologies. (See IBM Intros New Tech and Microsoft Adds Dynamic Systems .)

To review: Ciscos virtualization efforts have centered mainly on networking technologies, following its recent $250 million acquisition of Topspin Communications Inc.. IBM is going after data center kit such as storage, servers, and systems management in an attempt to win data center managers over to its own virtualization story. (See Cisco Takes On Topspin.)

The move is part of IBM’s long-term plan to tie data center equipment into one big virtual package -- with a big blue bow, as it were. (See IBM's Got Virtual Vision and IBM Previews Virtualization Engine.)

Storage is a core component of this. One of the key elements of today’s announcement is a new Virtualization Engine device, the TS7510, which aims to virtualize tape storage linked to Unix and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) servers. Essentially, the TS7510 is a rackmounted server attached to a disk subsystem with a maximum usable capacity of 46 Terabytes.

Speed is of the essence here. Virtual tape systems write data to disk in the same format used for tape backups, but store the data on disk to make the backup and recovery times faster.A number of vendors, some of which are already IBM partners, are currently hard at work developing this type of technology. But Charlie Andrews, director of IBM’s TotalStorage division, refused to tell Byte and Switch who was actually involved in building the new TS7510. “At this point, for a number of confidentiality reasons, we’re not discussing who it is,” he says.

There’s a number of possible contenders. IBM currently has an OEM deal with Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) to sell its storage gear, and NetApp acquired virtual tape library (VTL) startup Alacritus Software Inc. in April for $11 million. (See NetApp Annexes Alacritus.) NetApp is currently tweaking the Alacritus VTL and is expected to release it under its own brand later this year or early next year.

An industry source says IBM has also considered reselling startup Sepaton’s VTL technology. Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) also has an OEM deal with Sepaton.

As well as new tape virtualization technology, IBM also announced a new browser-based interface for its Power 5 processor-based UNIX servers today, which it claims can simplify virtualization deployments. The vendor also revealed plans for a new family of switches for its xSeries server line, as well as the next version of its SAN Volume Controller software. (Stay tuned for follow-up stories on those topics as well.)

But users are still deciding where exactly they want virtualization, let alone if they want it. Organizations have also been advised to take a cautious approach to deploying the technology. (See Suppliers Serve Virtualization and Let's Get Virtual.)The other stumbling block cited by users is software licensing (See Software Licensing Gridlock.) Today, however, Microsoft attempted to address this issue by introducing a new licensing structure for its Windows Server System offerings. Licenses for the data center version of Windows Server, which is better known by its code-name "Longhorn," for example, will let users run an unlimited number of virtual instances of the software on one physical server.

Microsoft also announced licensing details for its new Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition, which lets users run up to four virtual instances of the software on one physical server at no extra cost.

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum, and Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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