Virtually Speaking: Storage, the New Frontier

Amy Newman
The latest offerings from VMware and Virtual Iron look to virtual storage.

As thoughts turn to mistletoe and champagne, the virtualization infrastructure vendors delivered holiday cheer in the form of new product releases on Tuesday.

VMware unwrapped a new version of Virtual Infrastructure while Virtual Iron took a new version of its software out of the bag.

Although neither product release is paradigm-shifting or ground-breaking, they represent the solid incremental improvements found in a mature market as well a step in the same direction from vendors taking very different approaches.

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Announced in October, Virtual Infrastructure 3 consists of the VMware ESX Server 3.5 and VirtualCenter 2.5 modules. It's designed to ease key pain points server admins face in both the physical and virtual worlds. In addition to ESX Server and VirtualCenter, it features VMware Storage VMotion, VMware Update Manager and VMware Distributed Power Management.

Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's senior director of product marketing, described the offering to InternetNews as taking "virtualization to the next level by using the VMotion technology to simplify the process of moving data from one storage array to another in the data center."

Virtual Iron also looked to take virtualization to the next level this week. In Virtual Iron's case, its intention was to bring its Xen-based offering on par with VMware. Mike Grandinetti, chief marketing officer at Virtual Iron Software, told ServerWatch, "the new release has most, if not all, the capabilities of VMware."

Like the offering from VMware, Virtual Iron's software looks to storage as the new frontier. The new version is expected to be generally available and shipping by the end of the year.

According to Grandinetti, Virtual Iron is breaking new ground as the first Xen-based solution to offer multipathing, snapshotting and storage on demand.

Virtual Iron 4.2 offers multipathing for virtual server Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks. Because it's redundant, there is no single point of failure, "connectivity is continuous, and [the app] finds another path in the network," Grandinetti said, noting that VMware already offers this capability.

Multipathing is one way to strengthen business continuity and redundancy. With many of Virtual Iron's customers moving their deployments into production or having them already there, facilitating a server virtualization model that drives high availability and disaster recovery and, in some cases, even makes it feasible, is a wise move.

Grandinetti also noted that 2007 was a pivotal year for virtualization, with many organizations moving their virtual infrastructures out of consolidation-driven endeavors and development and into production.

The new release also brings snapshotting capabilities to Xen-based solutions. Snapshotting serves the same function as cloning. However, unlike cloning, systems do not need to be shut down, Grandinetti said. This makes it easier to patch virtual machines in dev/test environments, while also saving space.

With the capability to dynamically increase (or decrease) the size of both disk groups and virtual disks as needed, the release, "extends utility computing to data center, not just servers," Grandinetti said.

Grandenetti said connectivity to shared storage always been an option. In the new release, however, users can also create virtual storage as well as scale up and scale down virtual storage in an on-demand (or "cloud computing") environment.

Version 4.2 adds support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (along with versions 3 and 4) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 (as well as version 9) to meet demand for mainstream, production use. In addition, to simplify deployments and upgrades, Virtual Server tools have been packaged as an ISO, which appears to the administrator as a virtual CD ROM.

If there was any doubt about whether virtualization is ready for storage, these offerings are clearly primed to put them to rest.

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

This article was originally published on Dec 11, 2007
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