Virtually Speaking: Virtualization Race Tightens

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Oct 27, 2006


Amy Newman
VMware may dominate, but other virtualization vendors are gaining ground.

VMware may have owned 55 percent of the virtualization market in 2005, according to IDC, but it's hardly the only game in town, and it may be time to make some room at the table for other players.

Take SWsoft's Virtuozzo, for example. According to IDC, the ISV's virtualization software grew 98 percent — faster than any other vendor in this space. Faster, even than the market itself, which grew a staggering 67 percent from 2004 to 2005. Bear in mind, however, that SWsoft's market share is estimated at around 8 percent.

Virtual Iron is another vendor that made headlines in the past few weeks. Two weeks ago, the vendor delivered on its promise and released version 3.0 of its product platform. As planned, the software supports the latest version of Intel's VT platform and contains an open source hypervisor built around the Xen open source community project.

A free, single-use edition of the product, available via download, was also announced at this time.

This week, Virtual Iron announced a partnership with network connectivity vendors Emulex and QLogic. The network connectivity market, in case you don't follow it, is large yet fairly unpopulated. Emulex and QLogic together own virtually 100 percent of the market. By partnering with them, Virtual Iron is in effect certifying that all HBAs can run securely on Virtual Iron 3.

A conversation with Emulex revealed many details about the partnership. Most of Emulex's products are found in the embedded space: Fibre Channel host bus adaptors (HBAs), embedded switches, embedded IOC/IOPs, embedded routers and bridges, storage processors, and SAN routers.

Under the terms of the agreement with Emulex, Virtual Iron 3.0 will support its LightPulse Fibre Channel HBAs. Emulex HBAs offer Fibre Channel storage networking connectivity capabilities for managing virtual servers.

Virtual Iron 3.0 will use standard Emulex HBA drivers that have been tested in a variety of SAN environments in its virtualization layer. Going forward, Virtual machines running in Virtual Iron will access storage through a certified storage stack.

Emulex is also working closely with Virtual Iron to expand support for its LightPulse Virtual HBA, which went gold in September. LightPulse Virtual HBA enables a virtual machine to own and access a dedicated World Wide Port Name, even when several virtual machines are sharing the same physical HBA. What really makes this technology so appealing is that guests can be managed independently.

Virtual Iron plans to roll this technology into its product in 2007, but its chief rival may have beaten it to the punch. Back in June, VMware inked a deal with Emulex for VMware ESX Server 3 to support the LightPulse family of HBAs. VMware has supported Emulex's HBA drivers since version 2 of ESX Server.

So not a huge boon for Emulex (or QLogic, for that matter), since it's already caught the big fish. For Virtual Iron, it's certainly recognition that its efforts have not gone unnoticed.

The storage virtualization market is just starting to simmer, and the vendors who virtualize in the server space are starting to make inroads. If the press releases hitting inboxes this week are any indication, virtualization will be more than casual conversation at next week's Storage Networking World.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

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