October 29, 2004 5:47 PM PDT

VMware aims for four-processor abilities

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VMware, the EMC subsidiary whose software lets a computer run multiple operating systems simultaneously in separate "virtual machines," has grown a step more ambitious.

The initial version of the company's software created virtual machines with the power of only a single-processor server. In 2003, VMware expanded to dual-processor servers, and this week, the company announced a version under development that will let each virtual machine have the power of four processors.

The capability, called 4-Way VMware Virtual SMP, will be released as an add-on to VMware's higher-end ESX Server software in the second half of 2005, the company said Wednesday at its VMworld conference.

Of servers sold today that are based on x86 chips from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices, the majority use one or two processors. But x86 systems are taking on more demanding tasks, such as housing databases or application servers, that often require four or more processors.

VMware's expansion would mean that large multiprocessor x86 servers could be subdivided to run these jobs as well as less demanding tasks. It also raises the possibility that with the company's VMotion software, tasks could be moved more easily from one physical machine to another as a customer deals with hardware failure, upgrades or other changes.

Microsoft now has a competing product, Virtual Server, but it can handle only single-processor work today. "Multiprocessor...support will be addressed in a future version, but we don't have any dates to share for when this will be available," a Microsoft representative said.

Microsoft this week added a different new feature, though. Virtual Server Migration 2005 Toolkit helps customers move software from a physical server to a virtual server.

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Happy for SMP but you missed a couple of details.
Couple of points that you didn't provide in the article. First of which is that while VMWare's ESX product runs on the bare metal, the MS version runs on a hosted platform. The benefits of running on the bare metal are too numerous to mention here. Let's just say that MS can't compete in this space. The VMWare product that they do compete against would be the GSX product, not ESX.

Secondly, in your article you make the following statement: "Microsoft this week added a different new feature, though. Virtual Server Migration 2005 Toolkit helps customers move software from a physical server to a virtual server." I fail to understand why this is news as VMWare has provided this type of functionality with their P2V (physical to virtual) tool for about 2 years now. VMWare even has a tech note to tell you how to manually go from virtual back to physical if you end up in a finger pointing contest between various vendors.

MS has a long way to go before they can compete in the virtualization space, but it's nice to see they've shown up to the party. Their attendance will probably have a good net effect on over all ROI.

Jim S.
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