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Scalent Scales Virtualization Management to New Heights

By Richard Adhikari (Send Email)
Posted Jun 12, 2008


When enterprises implement virtualization in their data centers, they can drastically reduce the number of physical servers they have, as physical servers are only switched on and deployed when business needs peak.

The latest version of Scalent Virtual Operating Environment makes it easier for users to manage mixed environments on the fly.

This leads to savings, but a host of new problems surface as well. Provisioning a virtual machine (VM) from a physical server is much easier than doing the opposite. Reprovisioning a physical server from a virtual one, also known as V2P, takes a lot of work.

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Scalent claims to have solved that problem with version 2.5 Scalent Virtual Operating Environment (V/OE), unveiled Thursday.

V/OE 2.5 is designed to enable IT departments rapidly provision entire virtual or physical systems and their associated storage and network setups, further cutting costs and improving server utilization.

"Moving from virtual machines back to physical servers is tricky because you need different sets of drivers for different physical servers," Ben Linder, Scalent CEO, told InternetNews.com.

"We've created technology that lets build Windows and Linux images that can boot on both physical and virtual machines interchangeably; it loads all the necessary drivers into the image at the same time as we load the virtual machine or the physical machine."

"That lets you prepare the image for both virtual and physical machines at the same time."

"You can't just bring up a physical server online; you need to connect it to VLANs 'virtual local-area networks' and the SAN 'storage area networks'," Chris Wolf, senior analyst for virtualization at The Burton Group, told InternetNews.com.

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"When you're talking about going V2P, you have a whole bunch of variables — different motherboards, a lot more moving parts."

Scalent V/OE 2.5's Infinite Virtual Transition feature lets enterprise IT "take a server and, within minutes, move it from V2P 'virtual to physical' or P2V without requiring a change to the image," Linder said.

That capability in V/OE 2.5 allows for greater flexibility in IT infrastructure, Donna Scott, vice president at research firm Gartner, told InternetNews.com.

The Burton Group's Wolf said that Scalent has "set itself apart from other vendors" by provisioning the entire infrastructure rather than just server workloads.

"As long as you're aware of what the target is, Scalent can insert the device drivers when the system boots so the experience is transparent to the user or organization," he added. "The only thing its competition can do is provision the server."

Being able to provision servers dynamically sharply reduces waste in the data center. "Utilization in server farms tends to be 5 to 10 percent, and some of the larger enterprises have tens of thousands of users," Linder said, adding that the basic reason for the waste is that servers are allocated to their functions statically.

Scalent "makes the allocation of servers completely dynamic; you can repurpose what a server does in five minutes or less when it's no longer needed," Linder said.

V/OE 2.5 supports Microsoft iSCSI, a virtual storage technology.

Many organizations are "moving their storage to iSCSI rather than Fibre Channel to cut costs," Linder said.

Scalent V/0E 2.5 allows Windows servers to boot on iSCSI through their built-in gigabit Ethernet ports so they don't require dedicated iSCSI cards, which cost $500 to $800 each, according to Linder.

Using iSCSI is not for everybody; while Fibre Channel is much more expensive, it offers 4 gigabits per second (Gb/sec) of bandwidth, and (8Gb/sec) Fibre Channel pipes are shipping today.

"Where iSCSI is interesting is that it costs a fraction of what Fibre Channel does, so as long as you're an SMB shop and your performance requirements aren't that high, iSCSI is the way to go," Wolf said.

For large enterprises, however, 1Gb/sec is not enough. "When you have a lot of VMs on a host and you need the storage I/O, you need Fibre Channel," Wolf said.

Scalent V/OE 2.5 supports Microsoft Windows; both Red Hat and SUSE Linux; and Sun's Solaris.

It has been in beta for three months, and is now sold by EMC and HP, and OEM'd by Unisys, Linder said.

Scalent V/OE comes installed on HP's blade systems under an exclusive agreement.

This article was originally published on InternetNews.com.

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