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Xsigo In-Rack Virtual IO Reduced Rack Space

Xsigo Systems Inc. is introducing a smaller version of its virtual I/O appliance that takes up half the space in a rack and is intended to help users more easily build smaller, modular "pods" of standardized virtualized computing devices on a single rack, rather than having storage all on one rack and servers all on another rack. Compared with the company's existing VP780 I/O Director, the VP560 I/O director takes up just 2U and supports from six to 60 servers, rather than hundreds of servers.

"We're very excited because of the smaller footprint," says Mornay Van Der Walt, VMware's director of technical marketing, whose team is responsible for hosting equipment that services labs at events such as VMWorld. The group does this by building a compact data center "pod" on a rack that includes computing, storage, and networking. "With the existing model, that typically takes 4U, and we put in two of these per rack," he says. "We lose 8U, and we're not leveraging all the expansion slots." That gives the group additional storage capabilities and lets them build a single rack that doesn't require the use of a second rack. "Reclaiming that 4U is very attractive to us."

Virtual I/O servers help reduce the number of cables that need to be plugged into each virtualized server down to two, rather than the eight to 18 that were required previously. "Instead of plugging them into each server individually, the eight to 18 cables are going to only one place, the I/O Director," says Jon Toor, vice president of marketing. In addition, once the standardized modular "pods" are built and wired up, future changes, such as adding connectivity, can be made just through software changes, and staff know what's in it even if it's in a remote or collocated facility.

It is "a further step in a slow stampede toward virtualization of everything," says Mike Kahn, managing director of The Clipper Group Inc., a Rye, N.H. consultancy, adding that after the virtualization of servers, and the virtualization of storage, virtualizing I/O is the next logical step. The smaller version makes it a reasonable building block for the pod approach. In addition, the implementation of architectures such as Cisco's Unified Computing System and Hewlett-Packard's Converged Infrastructure will highlight the need for virtual I/O, says Gartner's David Cappuccio, chief of research for IT infrastructures.

The Xsigo VP560 goes on sale on May 10 for $20,000 and is expected to start shipping in four weeks. It includes 24 server connections and up to 64 virtual NICs and HBAs, with 20Gbps per server connection, and four I/O module slots, each configurable with 10G Ethernet, 1G Ethernet and  4Gb Fibre Channel modules. Operating environments supported include VMware ESX, Windows Server, Hyper-V, Solaris, Oracle VM, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Citrix XenServer. It also supports Fibre Channel, iSCSI and NAS storage.