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Dell, Sun Bring on the Virtual

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Sep 11, 2008


In the week leading up to VMworld, vendors seem to fall into three categories:

  1. Those looking to get their news out in the pre-event hype
  2. Those looking to get the gears moving on their news pre-VMworld, but don't yet want to spill the beans
  3. Those completely oblivious to the VMworld hype
(Not Quite) LIVE From VMworld: On the eve of VMworld, Dell and Sun unveiled new products that embrace interoperability for virtual server environments.

As the week rolls on, the third group is becoming increasingly smaller.

As to the second group: Stay tuned to ServerWatch next week.

That leaves the first group. On Wednesday, some pretty heavy-hitters revealed their virtualization plans.

Sun was front and center. It proclaimed the open source xVM Server worthy of the 1.0 gold stamp. If you're confused, don't be. The hypervisor environment has indeed been out since October 2007 and passed the 5-million download mark earlier this year.

But for companies that "don't do betas" this is big news.

In terms of mechanics, xVM works with Windows, Solaris, Unix and Linux, and it runs on both SPARC and x86 platforms. Mac support is planned for the next version, according to Sun.

Sun also unveiled the latest edition of its xVM Ops Center. Now in version 2.0, the software suite manages both physical and virtual infrastructures. It, too, was designed with interoperability in mind, Vijay Sarathy, senior director of marketing for xVM, told ServerWatch.

With these additions, Sun delivers a complete suite that's designed to extend from the desktop to the data center, Sarathy said.

Sarathy noted that "coo-petition" is the order of the day, and indeed, here it starts with the back end, which is built around the Xen hypervisor. Interoperability is front and center, allowing for integration with VMware and the capability to read the VMDK file format. VMware can also be used as the VDI environment and as the back end (as well as hyper-V) along with xVM.

The environment offers functionality that enterprises have come to expect, including live migration and built-in management capabilities.

Dell's Virtual Moves

At the other side of the OEM spectrum, Dell (yes, Dell) has landed at the virtual scene.

"Dell disrupts markets," Vice President of Software and Solutions Rick Becker said at a press conference. First it was PCs, then servers, and now it's looking at storage.

But it also has its eye on virtualization, and on Wednesday it unveiled three new servers that Becker described as "optimized for virtualization." The PowerEdge M805 and M905 blades and R900 rackmount server were "designed from the grounds up for virtualization," Sally Stevens, director of server platform marketing, said, contrasting them to HP's recently announced BL495c, which Stevens described as an offering that merely, "revamps and repackages."

The Dell servers offer three highly available, fully redundant I/O fabrics, eight high-speed ports, enhanced RAM capacity and the option to add more low-cost DIMMs, and an internal SD card for embedded hypervisors.

Dell also has an eye on virtualized storage and revealed offerings that bring technology from the Big Three (VMware, Microsoft and Citrix) to its products. It also announced a partnership with PlateSpin.

Will Dell succeed in disrupting the virtualization status quo? Virtualization may be as pervasive as California wildfires (though to a large degree it's wider than than it is deep), and it's arguable that a status quo has yet to be established.

Given that Dell is not an innovator, it may be far too soon for it to be "disruptive."

Further, Dell's track record for bursting on the scene and incorporating new technologies is far from stellar. Just look at how many tries it took for it to get a blade line off the ground.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001 and is looking forward to attending VMworld next week.

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