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Instant Servers Via Virtualization

As demand grows for Linux as a data-center workhorse, tech vendors are developing more sophisticated ways to quickly bring up new Linux servers without the need to invest in additional boxes or software. Systems administrators already can do this using tools from EMC Corp.'s VMware unit or XenSource Inc., but a new network appliance from Levanta Inc. promises to take these virtualization capabilities to the next level.

The Levanta Intrepid M, available this month, acts as hub for provisioning Linux servers without the need to load the operating system or applications directly onto each server. Instead, the Intrepid M uses its MapFS file system to store the server operating system and any applications on the appliance, which features 1.4 terabytes of disk space. When newly provisioned servers are ready to boot, they access the Intrepid over the network.

Levanta's appliance is different from other provisioning tools that are either script- or image-based and only allow servers to be created one at a time, Illuminata research analyst Thomas Deane says. Using the Intrepid, Levanta keeps the binaries in one repository on the network, and all the systems talk to that one repository. "When you want to make a change, you only have to make it in one place," he says.

Boscov's LLC, an East Coast department store chain, has been running Levanta management and provisioning software on its main- frame and x86-based servers for years. Since April, Boscov's has been testing the Intrepid M.

Once the Linux operating system is loaded onto the appliance, a number of physical servers can access the operating system and boot over the network, says Robert Schwartz, a Boscov's systems programmer. "This centralizes server administration and is particularly useful when distributing software patches."

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