Virtualization Startups Gain Steam

Virtual Iron picks up $3 million from SAP, Marathon adds new wares as hype heats up

April 20, 2006

4 Min Read
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The virtualization market is heating up. In news this week, Virtual Iron has clinched $3 million in new funding from German software giant SAP and fellow startup Marathon Technologies is fleshing out its product line.

Virtual Iron's cash infusion underlines the amount of interest in this space and comes just months after Intel Capital pumped $8.5 million into the vendor. SAP's investment brings the firm's total funding to $31.5 million since its founding in March 2003. (See Virtual Iron Boosted by Intel.)

Tim Walsh, Virtual Iron's director of corporate marketing, confirmed that Virtual Iron is reaping the benefits of SAP's deep pockets, although he refused to provide any additional details on the funding.

Virtual Iron is one of a growing roster of startups laying claim to controlling server resources regardless of the underlying hardware. In Virtual Iron's case, the claim is mainly one of scale: Unlike market leader VMware Inc., whose focus traditionally has been on partitioning individual servers, Virtual Iron's focus is on virtualization across multiple Intel-based servers. (See Virtual Iron Revises Platform.)

Another key difference between Virtual Iron and VMware is the former's commitment to para-virtualization, a technique for modifying operating systems to support virtualization (instead of introducing a separate operating system). (See Novell Supports Virtual Iron.) So far, VMware has been playing its para-virtualization cards close to its chest, suggesting the company may doubt end-user demand for the technology. (See VMware's Virtual Appetizer, and Virtual Doublespeak.)Virtual Iron and VMware are hardly alone in touting virtualization as a way to ease the strain on enterprise data centers. Marathon Technologies this week unveiled its latest software offering, EverRun High Availability (HA), which aims to boost the performance of data center applications. (See Marathon Intros EverRun.)

EverRun HA runs across two x86 servers, with the goal of offering application redundancy and failover for the likes of databases. In a nutshell, the software creates a virtual Windows server environment where the application is installed, operated, and managed. The two servers then appear to the application as a single standalone server, with just one identity and IP address. "It simplifies the management because there's only one server to manage," explains Steve Keilen, Marathon's vice president of marketing.

But with numerous vendors throwing around the term "virtualization," Gordon Haff, senior analyst at Illuminata, warns users not to confuse Marathon with Virtual Iron and VMware. "It's really quite a different thing," he says. "They are all using the term virtualization, but VMware and Virtual Iron are creating virtual machines and Marathon is essentially creating a fault tolerant system for two different servers," he explains.

As opposed to being a direct competitor to VMware and Virtual Iron, the analyst believes that Marathon could be a potential partner. "[Because] Marathon is not creating virtual machines, Virtual Iron and VMware could very easily exist on top of what Marathon offers," he adds.

EverRun HA is an upgraded version of Marathon's existing EverRun Fault Tolerant (FT) software, which could only run on single and dual processor servers. HA, however, can run on servers with multiple processors, according to Keilen.But will all the vendor hype about virtualization be enough to sway users? In a recent IT spending survey, buyers rated virtualization a low priority. A recent Goldman Sachs survey of 100 IT managers at Fortune 1000 firms shows only 29 percent are considering implementing virtualization over the next 12 months, which tracks closely with other studies. (See Virtually Nowhere.)

That said, some users are already reaping the benefits of virtualization. Terry Michaelson, director of technical systems at the Princess Margaret Hospital In Toronto, Ontario, has been using Marathon's FT product since 2002 and is eager to get his hands on the upgrade. "We will be looking at that," he told Byte and Switch,"We're going to a four-processor system and that's not supported by FT."

Michaelson explained that, when he first deployed FT, other software vendors, including HP and Microsoft, with its Cluster Server offering, were unable to offer the level of availability he needed. "Various vendors had clustering solutions, but nobody offered failover without loss of sessions," he says.

Pricing for EverRun HA, which is available immediately, starts at $7,500 per server.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and SwitchOrganizations mentioned in this article:

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Goldman Sachs & Co.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Illuminata Inc.

  • Intel Capital

  • Marathon Technologies Corp.

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • SAP AG (NYSE/Frankfurt: SAP)

  • Virtual Iron Software Inc.

  • VMware Inc.

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