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VMware User Group Meeting To Feature Management Tools
Virtualization requires more than just virtual machines. That's the chorus being voiced as the market leader, VMware, calls together 10,000 virtualization users for its VMworld 2007 user group in San Francisco this week.

 

The event will be the largest gathering of virtualization devotees of the year. The theme appears to be: how to manage virtualization. Microsoft, without a hypervisor product of its own just yet, will be one of the biggest talkers. In addition, Avocent, Trusted Network Technologies, Virtual Iron, Vizioncore, XenSource (which is being bought by Citrix, and VMware itself will add their voices to the discussion.

Microsoft is finally stirring on the virtualization front, having released Virtual Machine Manager, part of its System Center suite, to manufacturing last week. Virtual Machine Manager is intended to assess physical servers for virtualization; convert physical servers to virtual ones; launch, manage, and tear down Microsoft Virtual Server virtual machines; and migrate VMware-based virtual machines into Virtual Server's VHD file format. That makes Virtual Machine Manager highly Windows-centric--for the time being.

VMware may dominate today's server virtualization market, but Microsoft expects to dominate the next phase--desktop and server virtualization combined. "This is a much broader thing--application virtualization, presentation virtualization, and desktop virtualization," says Mike Neil, general manager of Microsoft virtualization. "Microsoft can bring these together under a common umbrella with its management tools."

A CONTENDER
Microsoft--with Virtual Server, its basic VM software; SoftGrid application virtualizer from its 2006 Softricity acquisition; and now Virtual Machine Manager--will be a market contender once another new product, the Microsoft Viridian hypervisor, joins the set. Microsoft is due to launch Windows Server 2008 in February, and the Viridian hypervisor product will follow within six months, says Neil. IDC projects Windows Server 2008 will be the dominant form of Windows on servers by 2010, with virtualization as a built-in feature.

While Viridian will be nearly ubiquitous on Windows Server 2008, Microsoft's Virtual Machine Manager will take on a broader role, managing VMware's virtual machines as well as Microsoft's, and enabling a reverse migration of Microsoft VHD to VMware's VMDK virtual machine file.

What could happen next is encapsulated in Neil's set of bar graphs showing a sudden, dramatic shift in market share away from VMware. Neil points to IDC projections that virtualization software revenue based on the Windows platform will jump from about $350 million in 2006 to $1.8 billion in 2011.

 

Total virtualization software and services revenue is headed for $11.7 billion in 2011, IDC says. So even if Microsoft takes market share, the market is growing so fast that VMware should remain a potent competitor and leading innovator in the field for a long time.

These days, VMware seeks to become a Citrix-style large-scale client virtualization manager. It's adding a connection broker, Virtual Desktop Manager, to its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. The broker connects a remote user to a desktop running as a virtual machine on a central server. Virtual Desktop Manager matches the user's request to the user's identity in Active Directory, then asks VMware's Virtual Center to provision a virtual machine for the user, explains Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's senior director of product marketing. Each remote desktop may have a unique virtual machine, or shared pools of VMs may be parceled to various desktops, depending on user privilege. The desktops may be either PCs or thin clients.

It's a good way for VMware to go. IDC predicts desktop virtualization will be a $2 billion market by 2011.

In addition to its desktop tools, VMware is pioneering virtual machine management with tools like VMotion, which can migrate running virtual machines from one server to another. This week, VMware's expanding its Virtual Center management toolset by adding Site Recovery Manager, which can activate a set of standby virtual machines if production systems are lost. Quick and easy disaster recovery is one of the lesser-known uses of server virtualization, and VMware is trying to formalize what its customers say they're already doing with its products.

MASKING STORAGE
Virtual Iron will emphasize its VMware-like Live Migration and Live Recovery capabilities at VMworld, and play up its ability to conduct virtual machine migrations without imposing a proprietary file system on top of the customer's virtualized storage. VMware's VMotion requires the storage volumes over which virtual machines are migrated to use its VMFS file system. XenSource, supplier of the open source Xen hypervisor, has its own proprietary storage system as well, but it recently allied with Veritas to allow live migration across Veritas-managed storage. Virtual Iron says it can mask the existing storage management system and get it to work with Live Migration.

 

Vizioncore, a U.K. vendor of virtualization management software, is concentrating on bringing more management tools to VMware's existing custom- ers. Vizioncore will release vOptimizer version 4.0, which reduces the size of virtual machines, makes them easier to deploy, and makes more efficient use of storage. Founder and CEO David Bieneman says vOptimizer can reduce a virtual machine's size by 80%.

Management tools that address virtual machines only, however, have a blind spot. They can't necessarily see or manage the real assets behind them. Avocent, which grew out of the merger in 2000 of Apex and Cybex, two keyboard, video, and mouse device manufacturers, has become a virtualization player and is about to market DSView 3 management software, which will be demonstrated for the first time at VMworld.

VMware offers Virtual Center as a way of manag-ing multiple virtual machines. Chantal Ingerson, an Avocent senior product manager, says most VMware customers end up launching multiple Virtual Centers and have no way to manage them from a single console. DSView 3 can do that, as well as provide a view into the physical servers and the operating systems that are hosting the virtual machines. "We're a browser-based console that lets the user access and control various target elements," whether a physical server, VM, or Virtual Center set of virtual machines, says Ingerson.

Trusted Network Technologies, another desktop virtualization supplier, will offer Vdesk Tools for VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Vdesk lets managers track and inspect virtual desktops, apply company policies, and identify potential problems in desktop operations.

Physical resources such as server CPU, memory, and underlying storage all operate more efficiently if the input/output is virtualized. Startup Xsigo Systems will demonstrate how to make that happen. With Xsigo's I/O virtualization, which takes place on a $30,000 piece of hardware connected to the server, the I/O configuration for various virtual machines can be changed on the fly to meet service-level agreements or optimize server utilization. External resources, such as Fibre Channel storage or TCP/IP networks, are connected to the Xsigo box through proprietary cards that cost an additional $8,000 to $10,000 each.

With virtual machine technology available for free, and a hypervisor available as a soon-to-be-added feature of Windows Server 2008, virtual machines are likely to proliferate. Managing this virtual outpouring is sure to challenge those unprepared for it. But IT managers don't have to venture into the future unarmed.

Read the original from InformationWeek, here.

Published Saturday, September 08, 2007 3:50 PM by David Marshall
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