VMware Sets Sights on Storage Virtualization

Unveils ESX Server enhancements tied to 10 Gbit/s and InfiniBand

October 9, 2007

4 Min Read
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VMware fleshed out its storage virtualization strategy today, adding support for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet and InfiniBand, as well as enhancing its file migration story.

Earlier this year, XenSource fired a shot across the bows of VMware when it overhauled its XenEnterprise offering, adding enhanced support for storage virtualization, a move which prompted speculation that its rival would follow suit.

Today VMware duly took the wraps off Virtual Infrastructure 3, a package of virtualization software built around an enhanced version of the vendor's flagship ESX Server product. VMware is now touting this offering as a way for users to tie their server and storage infrastructures together.

"For the first time, we're supporting 10-Gbit/s Ethernet and InfiniBand (on ESX Server)," says Bogomil Balansky, VMware's senior director of product marketing, explaining that high-speed interconnects can boost the performance of virtual machines. "Customers can either run more VMs, or more network-intensive workloads on a VM."

With XenSource already in bed with EMC's storage rival Symantec, Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Bowker feels that today's announcement is further evidence of the growing convergence of servers and storage. "More users are demanding [storage virtualization]," he says, highlighting, in particular, users' increasing desire to deploy iSCSI within their storage infrastructure."We did some research around iSCSI and one of the reasons why people weren't implementing it was because they were waiting for 10 Gbit/s," he says, explaining that users need higher bandwidth to get the most out of their iSCSI deployments.

These sentiments were echoed in a report released today by Goldman Sachs. "Although virtualization's direct impact on overall storage demand is modest, it will accelerate the shift from direct attached to networked storage," wrote analyst David Bailey, highlighting increased iSCSI deployments. "With VMware's latest enterprise package, Virtual Infrastructure 3, NAS and iSCSI solutions are now more viable options."

Rival XenSource has already demonstrated support for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet and InfiniBand, and expects to launch products that can handle the interconnects sometime in the first half of next year.

As part of today's ESX Server announcements, VMware also unveiled Storage VMotion, effectively adapting one of its core virtual server technologies to the storage realm. "Storage VMotion will do the same things for storage arrays as VMotion does for servers," explains Balansky. "It will enable you to migrate the virtual machine disk file from one storage array to another."

Just as VMotion lets users migrate running VMs from physical server to physical server, so the storage version can be used for maintenance work on storage arrays, according to the exec.ESG analyst Bowker identified the launch of storage VMotion as a step in the right direction by VMware. "It would be nice to have different tiers of storage associated with VMs," he says. "Let's say that I have a virtual application that becomes very busy at the end of the month, you can migrate that to a different tier of storage as needed."

Rival XenSource is less enthusiastic about this type of technology. Although the vendor can currently move VMs from storage array to storage array, they cannot be shifted whilst still running. "I dont see that as a vast requirement in the market," says XenSource CTO Simon Crosby. "It's not on our roadmap right now."

Other features of today's VMware upgrades include Update Manager for automating patch management on ESX Server hosts and Guided Consolidation, a wizard within Virtual Center. Guided Consolidation discovers physical servers, converts them to virtual machines, and automatically places them on the most appropriate ESX Server hosts.

Virtual Infrastructure 3, which will be available later this year, is separated into three price brackets. A "foundation" version, which includes the latest version of ESX Server, the ESX Server 3i hypervisor, Consolidated Backup and Update Manager, is priced at $995 for two processors.

A "standard" edition, which also includes VMware HA software for automatically restarting VMs after a hardware failure, is priced at $2,995 for two processors. At the high end, Virtual Infrastructure 3 Enterprise contains VMotion, Storage VMotion, and Distributed Power Management (DPM), a software package launched today for automatically powering off servers that are not needed. List price for the Enterprise version is $5,750 for two processors.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)

  • Goldman Sachs & Co.

  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)

  • VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW)

  • XenSource Inc.

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