Virtually Speaking: Surveys Galore

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Dec 4, 2007


Amy Newman

Server stats season continues with the release of IDC's quarterly server shipment stats. The relieved exhale generated by the Gartner stats published last week was replaced with a sharp gasp, as IDC's numbers told a different story of the virtual world.

IDC's third-quarter server shipment survey found virtualization already having an impact on purchasing, while a study from Xsigo named I/O bottleneck as the biggest hurdle for virtual deployments. Meanwhile, Transitive partnered with Hitachi to ease migration pain points.

To make a long story short: Its results found fewer units generated more revenue in third-quarter 2007.

IDC reported factory revenue in the worldwide server market grew 0.5 percent year over year (the slowest rate of growth since first-quarter 2006) to $13.1 billion, while server unit shipments grew 6.3 percent compared to third-quarter 2007. This is a decline from 7.8 percent growth for the same quarter in 2006.

IDC attributes the shift to virtualization finding an anchor in the server room, noting "After months of vendors telling customers that they can do the work of 10 servers with one, people started buying one server instead of 10."

If this was indeed the reason, it's hardly a cause for gloom and doom by any means. Note that hardware purchasing hasn't slowed down, it's merely shifted. It may be a harbinger of bad times for vendors that deal primarily in low-end commodity boxes that pop into a scale-out infrastructure, but it doesn't necessarily spell bad news for the industry overall. Enterprises are still buying hardware, and even Dell — the poster child for low-end servers — is scaling up its offerings these days.

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While the results may not merit the "lies, damn lies and statistics" adage, they do merit skepticism, as do the Gartner numbers.

Xsigo Survey Finds Bottleneck, Xsigo Solution Opens It

Another survey released this week requires closer scrutiny, however. Vendor-sponsored surveys should also be viewed skeptically, especially when they are surveying their bread-and-butter market. This is the case with Xsigo Systems, which Monday released survey results claiming that I/O presents a major stumbling block for virtualization deployments.

For those who follow the virtualization market, this is hardly news. The major OEMs are already on it, and both IBM and HP unveiled I/O virtualization technology in November.

For those not so in-the-know, the presentation of the news is somewhat spurious.

Survey results aside, Xsigo's offering goes beyond the solutions the hardware vendors are offering. The Xsigo VP780 I/O Director, which the company unveiled in September at VMworld, is a 4U device that provides an interconnect between servers and networking. The chassis includes 24 10Gb/s ports for server or expansion switch connections and accepts up to 15 plug-in modules for network and storage connections.

The applications and operating systems see virtual interfaces as if they were physical connections, removing the need for network interface cards (NICs) and host bust adapters (HBAs). Thus, rather than running multiple NICs and HBAs for each server or storage device, I/O Director virtualizes those interconnects with one InfiniBand interface, and eliminates much of the cables, switches and other connectivity-related hardware.

Hitachi, Transitive Partner

Xsigo isn't the only company addressing hardware-related virtualization issues. Transitive's QuickTransit, for example, is a hardware virtualization solution that takes software applications for one processor or operating system and enables them to run on a system with a different processor or operating system, without any source code or binary changes. It claims speeds comparable to native ports.

"Binaries from original app run as they did previously. Customers generally find systems run faster because they are using newer hardware and often consolidate on to a single blade or server," Vice President of Marketing Ian Robinson told ServerWatch.

QuickTransit for Solaris/SPARC to Linux/Itanium was released in October. It joined QuickTransit for Solaris/SPARC-to-Linux/x86-64 and will soon be joined by QuickTransit for Solaris/SPARC-to-Solaris/x86-64, which is currently in its beta stage.

Last week, Transitive inked a deal with Hitachi America, wherein Hitachi will feature the new solution on its BladeSymphony 1000 and 320 blade server products running on Xeon and Itanium 2 processor technologies.

Transitive made a smiliar alliance with Fujitsu two weeks earlier.

Using QuickTransit technology, "code can run from any machine on any other and can move from older SPARC system to new x86 systems," Steve Campbell, senior vice president of marketing for Hitachi America told ServerWatch.

So customers who are ready to part with their SPARC hardware but not their Solaris/SPARC apps can now have the best of both worlds: legacy apps and industry-standard Xeon- and Itanium-based hardware.

In the case of Hitachi, this means server blades with Virtage, virtualization technology embedded in the hardware that allows multiple operating system environments to run on one or more blade servers.

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

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