VMware 64-Bit Support Largely Virtual

Real-life benefits remain at least a year away

April 20, 2004

2 Min Read
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VMware Inc.

announced support for 64-bit platforms today, but its roadmap -- and the impact of 64-bit computing on storage networks -- remains sketchy.

VMware announced support for Advanced Micro Devices's (NYSE: AMD) AMD64 and Intel Corp.'s (Nasdaq: INTC) Extended Memory 64 Technology, which will allow virtualization of 64-bit servers -- but not any time soon. VMware will introduce 64-bit support for its VMware Workstation product later this quarter, then phase it in for its GSX and ESX server products over 18 months.

"Not too specific, were they?" quips Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64, a firm that tracks 64-bit computing.

VMware software divides a server or workstation into virtual partitions, allowing for more flexibility in handling stored programs. EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) bought the company last December for $635M in hopes of eventually using its virtualization capabilities for storage (see EMC Gobbles VMware). The acquisition was part of a trend toward virtualized storage that has been embraced by Egenera Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW), 3PARdata Inc., Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS), and others.

"One of the strengths of VMware is to move workloads between physical servers," Brookwood says. "VMware allows you to move applications from one physical server to the next, based on changing workloads."However, Brookwood says two things must happen before storage applications can take advantage of live 64-bit servers. First, Microsoft Corp.'s (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows 2003 Server, a key software element of today's Intel-based servers, must become available. That is expected to happen later this year. Then there will be a need for 64-bit databases; that probably won't happen until around mid 2005 with the release of Yukon, a 64-bit version of SQL Server. That will be the cue for faster storage: "People will then be looking to move database workloads from 32-bits to 64-bits; and a lot of databases reside on SANs," Brookwood says.

Storage vendors have started trickling out plans to support 64-bit platforms, though they're clearly in no hurry (see Emulex Supports 64 Bits, BakBone Supports Linux on IBM and Software Management Mlange). Not only are server elements still not in place, but it's likely 64-bit computing will have a greater effect on servers than on storage systems.

Given all this, it's not surprising VMware chief architect Ed Bugnion says VMware's plans for 64-bit support predated the EMC acquisition. "This is driven by the VMware roadmap," Bugnion says. "You would have seen the same announcement if EMC didn't buy VMWare."

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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