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Virtually Speaking: Game-Changing Trifecta

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Amy Newman

XenSource is cozying up with Symantec and VMware is offering up a new measure, while HP attempts to swallow Opsware.

By now, the news of HP’s (that’s Hewlett-Packard’s, not Harry Potter’s, for all of you bleary-eyed readers out there) plans to purchase Opsware isn’t nearly as new as it was yesterday. While not virtualizationnews per se, the potential impact of the acquisition on the virtualization landscape is substantial.

The basic facts: On Monday, HP announced plans to buy Opsware for $1.6 billion in cash, a 38 percent premium over Opsware’s Friday closing price of $10.28 a share.

In a publicly released statement, HP said it will use Opsware’s assets with its other IT management software, some of which found its way to the systems vendor through other acquisitions, including that of Mercury Interactive and Peregrine Systems, to boost its business technology optimization portfolio.

Of all of the infrastructure management options on the market, Opsware Systems Server is the most attuned to the needs of virtualized infrastructures. Where it resides, post-acquisition (assuming the acquisition proceeds) in the HP stable is fairly clear, given the vendor’s collection of management tools, from the OpenView family to Insight Control Management Software portfolio. Or, perhaps, HP will leave Opsware’s offerings to stand on their own.

One thing is certain, the acquisition will have an impact on HP’s virtualization strategy as well as the virtual landscape as a whole, given Opsware’s rapid penetration there.

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Although the announced acquisition is big news and is already overshadowing the events of the week, it’s far from the only news to surface this week. Xen and VMware both had announcements of their own that should not run aground in the HP-Opsware shuffle.

A Benchmark of Efficiency

On Monday, VMware unveiled VMmark, a benchmarking model that enables enterprises to measure how well various applications run in virtual machines.

The benchmark is intended to be used by OEMs, Andrea Eubanks, VMware senior director of enterprise and technical marketing, told ServerWatch. Sun and Dell are already on board and have made some numbers public, based on test run with Beta versions of the tool. VMware is also working with IBM, Unisys and Fujitsu Siemens, Eubanks said.

VMmark, according to Eubanks, is the first benchmark to measure performance for a virtualized machine. It provides a “representative benchmark,” based on a six-application stack consisting of Linux and Windows applications. The benchmark enables enterprises to determine, “how many workloads to consolidate on a host.”

VMware also submitted the benchmark to the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) to be used as the basis for a standard benchmark for measuring virtualization performance in the form of SPECWeb and SPEC JBB.

More Than Semantics

It’s XenSource, however, that may have the most interesting news this week. XenEnterprise, whose weak spot as a virtualization infrastructure vendor is arguably a lack of tools, took steps to remedy that this week.

The virtualization software vendor signed an OEM agreement with Symantec to embed Veritas Storage Foundation, Symantec’s storage management software, into XenEnterprise. The vendors also agreed to collaborate to deliver enterprise-class high availability and disaster recovery and backup technology to XenSource customers.

The bundled solution is representative of Xen’s decision to avoid taking a siloed approach, John Bara, XenSource vice president of marketing, told ServerWatch. The agreement “unifies server and storage virtualization.” This, he noted, is also the first step toward XenSource’s platform approach of spanning multiple groups.

It also indicates a decision on XenSource’s part to not reinvent the wheel by building such tools itself.

With 99 percent of the Fortune 100 using Symantec products, it was certainly a good (and fairly secure) spot from which to launch a a long-term relationship, which Bara expects will be hold “more announcements in the future between the two companies.”

Going with a vendor that already has a solid user base softens the sell to customers, who, by and large, want to “extend the life of proven investments,” Bara said. Being able to use a product with which they are already familiar is obviously a tremendous advantage.

This, naturally will mean a higher price tag. The next major release of XenEnterprise, due out next month, will reflect this. In addition, version 4.0 will contain a host of features that will put it on par with VMware. Customers that buy 4.0 on maintenance will get a free upgrade to 4.1 and with it the embedded Veritas Storage Foundation when it ships in fourth quarter.

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

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