Virtually Speaking: Little Fish in a Big Pool

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Aug 28, 2007


Amy Newman

On Monday, Pano Logic unveiled a virtualized desktop computer; FastScale Technology released an add-on for its Composer Suite management software — Virtual manager; and Kace announced technology related to KBox, an appliance that's designed to manage both physical and virtual environments.

As summer wanes and VMworld approaches, the virtualization vendors are eager to show their wares. FastScale Technologies, Kace and Pano Logic all announced offerings this week.

A typical week in a virtualization market where the smaller companies are budding faster than you can say, "Boom" and where VMware's big show, VMworld, is fast approaching.

Take Kace, for example. The addition of vState Management to its KBox Systems Management and Systems Deployment Appliances is designed to enable users to reprovision or reconfigure a virtual machine based on a centrally defined system image. This makes high-volume deployments dramatically faster and more efficient, Marty Kacin, co-founder and CTO of Kace told ServerWatch.

Targeted at lab, testing and teaching environments, vState offers smart provisioning and reprovisioning of virtual machines at the file level.

The technology is currently tied to KBox, an appliance designed to reduce the management complexity inherent in virtual environments by delivering management capabilities for the physical and virtual from a single user interface.

KBox is designed to allow for remote virtual machine deployment via K-imaging, scripted installation and pre- and post-installation tasks; agentless deployment of physical and virtual machines from a centralized deployment library; and comprehensive virtual machine management support, including software distribution, patching, configuration management, license compliance and vulnerability scanning.

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KBox systems come in two flavors to meet two sets of needs: KBox 1000 Series Systems Management Appliances automate routine and complex IT maintenance tasks for end-point nodes on a network. This was Kace's initial product, and although Kacin described it as being an "all-in-one box" as far as functionality, it's not designed for system deployment.

That's where the KBox 2000 Series Systems Deployment Appliances comes in. It provides the "systems management automation for a system build out," Kacin said.

Admittedly, appliances are a somewhat touchy, if not controversial, topic among some IT execs. So why consider a KBox? Kace claim that a KBox-based virtual infrastructure can be deployed in one day and at a third of the cost of software alternative as well as offer easier management and security.

Will "Thin" Be In?

Pano Logic's Solution is also a hardware offering. It's aimed at the desktop, however.

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Thin clients, like appliances, haven't inspired confidence across the board. Sure, in some areas they've caught on, but by and large, thin clients remain a niche offering.

On Monday, Pano Logic announced its contribution to the world of thin-client computing, which it is billing as the industry’s first "all hardware, no software" computer. A Pano desktop is designed specifically for desktop virtualization and thus has no CPU, no memory, no operating system and no drivers. Instead, it delivers a 70 percent reduction in desktop TCO, according to the company.

Everything, from applications to data, resides on the server. Pano claims it delivers a seamless and secure Windows experience to end users whose Windows installations are hosted on servers using VMware virtualization software.

The Pano computer requires only an IP connection. Its centralized software management services handle the rest, including provisioning secure connections to servers running Vista and XP. All software runs centrally in the virtualized server environment.

Potential advantages of the Pano system include a reduced security risk and easier management, since software updates and resource allocation is centralized.

One of Pano's key features is a "Pano Button" that offers a set of actions to instantly solve a variety of IT management problems, including rolling back a corrupted operating system to a snapshot of the same operating system from 24 hours earlier or changing to a Windows virtual machine with a different set of applications.

In addition, the Pano device provides USB, desktop and network security. USB policies can be set at a granular level based on user and type of peripheral. Specific operations can be blocked, allowed or recorded as needed. Desktop security is present because there is no desktop in the usual sense — there is operating system or software to be compromised and no local storage to put sensitive customer information at risk. To keep the network secure, only screen images are sent over the network, and it is not possible to capture textual data. All keyboard and USB traffic is encrypted.

FastScale Zooms Forward

Like Kace, FastScale's offering builds on a previous release.

The ISV released FastScale Virtual Manager, the latest addition to the company’s flagship product, FastScale Composer Suite. Virtual Manager is designed to extend the benefits of FastScale Composer Suite to virtualized environments.

Virtual Manager automates the building of software stacks to reduce system administration time, decrease manual errors and deliver more output from same physical resources. It creates virtual machine disk images (VMDKs) with dynamically sized containers and can provision to virtual or physical machines on-the-fly.

Like FastScale Composer Suite, Virtual Manager is all about being trim and efficient. It's designed to fit three times as many virtual machines per physical server without degrading performance and boot more than 40 virtual machines in less time than a single traditional environment.

Three solutions come from three nascent vendors, all of which share another commonality: All three vendors have opted for VMware first.

KBOX, for example, "is agnostic from the perspective of which platform customers are using. However, VMware is most common among customers," Kacin said.

Not surprisingly, therefore, is Kace's partnership with VMware and use of a VMware image.

Hitching the wagon to the market leader's cart is hardly a new strategy, and it's one that makes sense given virtualization's current aura.

Like many of the current smaller players, especially those building virtual offerings, all three are venture-capital funded. That means that in due course they will be sold or taken public to repay their backers. Aligning themselves with the virtualization kingpin is a can't-hurt, might-help move, especially if they can plug a hole that VMware isn't.

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

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