Virtually Speaking: Virtual Iron Forges Ahead

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Sep 5, 2007


Amy Newman
Virtual Iron strikes while the virtual iron is hot, releasing a new version of its software -- and grabbing the spotlight before VMware's VMworld trade show overshadows all other news.

The countdown to VMworld has begun, and few are immune to the buzz, including VMware's competition.

On Tuesday, Virtual Iron Software unveiled version 4 of its virtualization offering.

The feature set aims high. Virtual Iron Director of Corporate Marketing Tim Walsh told Serverwatch that he believes the release puts Virtual Iron "in sync with the latest version of Xen." The price point, however, is designed to appeal to those just getting their feet wet with virtualization as well as those on the the lower end. Walsh noted it's priced lower even than Xen, now that XenSource has stepped XenEnterprise up.

In countless conversations, Virtual Iron has focused not on what makes it unique, but on what makes its products better than VMware's. The addition of XenSource to the conversation is, if anything, a sign of XenSource's growing presence. Virtual Iron must walk a thin line, however, as Xen is more than just a competitor for Virtual Iron. Xen's hypervisor is at the core of Virtual Iron's offering. In fact, the new Xen 3.1 64-bit hypervisor is part of this release.

Like previously released editions, the single-server addition of Virtual Iron v4 is free. The Enterprise Edition is priced at $499 per socket, and the newly added Extended Enterprise Edition is $799 per socket. In addition to the features included with Enterprise Edition, Extended Enterprise includes policy-based management tools (LiveRecovery, LiveCapacity and LiveConvert powered by PlateSpin) and Gold- or Platinum-level support.

In contrast, XenEnterprise, XenSource's counterpart offering, is now priced at $1,599 for a dual-socket machine for one year and $2,499 for a dual-socket perpetual license. The more basic XenServer is priced at $495 for a one-year license and $750 for a perpetual license.

And that's still less than what VMware is charging.

Like Xen, Virtual Iron includes a Linux kernel. The difference is in the choice, however. Unlike Xen, which uses Debian, Virtual Iron has opted to "integrate with a commercially supported kernel." Virtual Iron has shimmied up to Novell to integrate the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 kernel and Linux drivers within its core architecture.

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Virtual Iron is not the only vendor to use a commercially supported kernel. VMware currently includes Red Hat.

Virtual Iron has also stepped up its partnership with PlateSpin. Version 4 adds PlateSpin-powered LiveConvert, an automated software solution that's designed to enable customers to migrate workloads (i.e., data, applications and operating systems) across physical, virtual, blade and image-based infrastructures in any direction. With this technology, users can quickly migrate workloads between physical servers and virtual machines for large-scale server consolidation, rapid provisioning, high availability and capacity management.

Other enhancements in version 4 include the following: a GUI-based management console featuring new wizards as well as graphing and reporting tools; support for Windows Vista, Windows 2000 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3; and Windows SMP Support for virtual machines with up to eight CPUs.

Virtual Iron's already present policy-based management tools also received a refresh. The company also made changes to the following tools to improve ease of use: LiveMigrate (which offers the capability to move virtual servers between physical servers without any application downtime — akin the the recently announced XenMotion and the well-known VMotion), LiveCapacity (which monitors virtual server CPU utilization to determine when a workload needs additional capacity and migrates it live to a physical server when needed), LiveRecovery (which monitors the status of physical resources and moves virtual servers to maintain uptime in the event of a hardware failure), LiveMaintenance (which moves virtual servers to alternate locations without downtime when a physical server is taken offline for maintenance), and LiveProvisioning (an automated deployment tool).

Walsh estimated that more than half of Virtual Iron customers are currenly using LiveMigrate. The newly announced LiveConverter is also part of version 4, which will be available on September 10.

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

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