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Bug Befalls VMware

By Richard Adhikari (Send Email)
Posted Aug 15, 2008


Sometimes it pays to wait a few weeks. VMware introduced Update 2 for both its ESX 3.5 hypervisor and ESXi 3.5 free hypervisor at the end of July with much fanfare.

It had to happen sooner or later. VMware's hypervisor caught its first bug. The problem itself is relatively minor. More important is how VMware is handling it as well as its partners' and users' perceptions.

Then, at midnight on August 12, both went awry. A piece of code in the hypervisor expired the products, which meant that users could not start new virtual machines (VMs), power on VMs after they had been shut down, and could not move a VM from one host to another.

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New CEO Paul Maritz wrote an open letter of apology within 12 hours, promising this would not happen again. VMware has also notified customers, pulled the affected software off its Web sites, and issued new versions without the flaw.

The scope of the problem was huge — in its literature, VMware boasts that it has more than 120,000 customers and nearly 18,000 partners. In his letter on The Console, VMware's executive blog, Maritz said the company is "doing everything in our power to make sure this doesn't happen again," and that VMware is reviewing its processes.

In response to a request for an interview, VMware e-mailed InternetNews.com a statement saying it has notified its customers that "we have re-issued the entire ESX/ESXi 3.5 Update 2 release." The statement also indicates the Web sites from which users can download these new releases and an express patch.

Cause for concern

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However, some feel VMware did not react fast enough, and the error is causing some concern among partners. The biggest shock was not the problem itself, but the fact that a product from a company known for its quality and reliability had a flaw.

VMware's response was not enough for Edward L. Haletky, founder of virtualization, security and network consultants AstroArch Consulting. "Their biggest failing was they didn't immediately communicate that problem," he told InternetNews.com. /p>

"They knew about this problem very early in the morning and I didn't get my notification until 6 p.m. on that day," Haletky said. He added that VMware "didn't communicate well except through their forum."

The incident was a wake-up call for observers and partners. "It was dumb, and we're not used to VMware doing dumb things," Rachel Chalmers, research director at analyst firm 451 Group, told InternetNews.com.

"If I was a VMware partner, I'd be justly irked," Chalmers added.

VMware partner Double-Take Software may not be irked, but it sure is concerned. "For many years now, we've not had anything like this on the ESX platform, and people take it as a matter of fact that it's a relatively stable platform," Bob Roudebush, Double-Take's director of solutions engineering at VMware partner told InternetNews.com.

"Every platform has its share of bugs, but this is the first time we've seen anything like this from VMware," Roudebush added. "We'll encourage VMware to ensure they do their best with respect to quality control."

Ron Pike, an associate at Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, who recently began experimenting with ESXi recently in the corporate IT infrastructure, said the flaw was "disappointing, but it really hasn't changed how we view the product." His systems were not affected because he has only virtualized some non-mission-critical servers.

"We see ESXi as a good entry-level product that's functional and is a known quantity, but we're going to evaluate our options," Pike said.

This article was originally published on InternetNews.com.

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