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A flurry of activity in server virtualization highlights application issues

June 25, 2005

3 Min Read
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With data centers growing in complexity, users are increasingly using virtualization to move data in server clusters. This week, two announcements highlighted the growing momentum in this space, with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) snapping up startup Meiosys for an undisclosed fee, and another startup, PlateSpin, unveiling its latest virtualization technology (see IBM Acquires Meiosys and PlateSpin Intros Portability Technology).

Meiosys has software called MetaCluster that dynamically shifts applications from one server to another, using virtualization to make the most of available computing space. MetaCluster was originally designed to move applications to higher-performance Unix and Linux servers during times of peak workload. Now, IBM is looking to adapt the software for its on-demand strategy, particularly for AIX environments (see FFIC Goes On Demand With IBM).

Dan Kuznetsky, vice president of analyst firm IDC, says that the best thing about MetaCluster is its ability to move applications from one operating system to another without modifying them in any way. It’s a very interesting technology,” he says. “These applications keep their state without losing data.”

Server virtualization is nothing new. EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) is already well established in the market following its acquisition of VMware Inc. last year (see EMC Completes VMware Acquisition). A number of startups are also playing in this space, including Cassatt Corp., Virtual Iron Software Inc., and Qlusters Inc.

Each of the startups is touting a different specialization. Qlusters says it helps manage applications instead of simply moving them from one server to another. Cassatt applies virtualization to middleware and operating systems as well as applications. Virtual Iron extends virtualization to processors, memory, and I/O elements within clustered devices (see Katana Becomes Virtual Iron and Qlusters: Pioneer of the Linux Qlass).While server virtualization is intriguing, it's not something to dive into quickly, particularly since it involves putting software applications on multiple servers at once. "It’s important for IT decision makers to look at an evolutionary approach,” Kuznetsky says. Unless they do, they could be in for unpleasant surprises, like server crashes. “It’s much better to pick off one application at a time and move forward in a cautious way."

This could be where PlateSpin fits in -- by enabling users to stick a toe in the virtual water.

Platespin's OS Portability software, unveiled this week, moves data, applications, and operating systems among physical and virtual servers, including ones created by the likes of VMware and Microsoft Corp.'s (Nasdaq: MSFT) Virtual Server. Data can be shifted in any direction, even from a virtual environment back to physical servers. (Before this announcement, PlateSpin's core PowerP2V software only enabled the transfer from a physical to a virtual environment.) OS Portability is compatible with Windows and Linux.

John Stetic, PlateSpin’s product manager, says the software's new features give users a way to test and see how well their systems cope with virtualization. “By being able to move systems in and out of virtualization you can test workloads,” he says.

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum0

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