VMware this week is shrinking its flagship ESX Server virtualization software so it can be embedded in servers from vendors such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.
VMware is unveiling the software, VMware ESX Server 3i, along with other enhancements to its product line, to its solution providers and an estimated group of 10,000 attendees of its VMworld conference, which starts Tuesday in San Francisco.
ESX 3i has all the functionality of ESX Server, but was shrunk to fit in 32 Mbytes of memory instead of the previous 2 Gbytes in order to let it be embedded on server motherboards, said Bogomil Balkansky, senior director of product marketing at VMware.
"That makes it only 1 percent or 2 percent the size of a general purpose operating system," Balkansky said. "This has implications for reliability and security. A smaller code base is more reliable. And it leaves less surface area for attacks."
ESX 3i will be put into flash memory to make it a component for servers from vendors like HP, IBM, and Dell, Balkansky said. "This will dramatically increase the user experience," he said. "They can just press a button, and the server auto-boots into the hypervisor. It will self-discover an IP address. Then the customer is ready to run virtual machines."
That means a big change in how the channel deals with VMware, said Mitch Kleinman, president of Ryjac Computer Solutions, an Irvine, Calif.-based IBM and VMware solution provider. "It's basically what Microsoft did to kill Netscape with Internet Explorer," he said. "They want to get the product to the customer."
Solution providers will be better able to focus on their value-add with ESX 3i, Kleinman said. "Now when we talk to a client, we don't have to sell virtualization," he said. "It's already there. We can then wrap the services on top of it."
It's a move that VMware had to do, Kleinman said. "When Microsoft's product catches up to VMware, which is the industry leader, this will have given VMware more market share," he said.
It also makes sense for the server vendors, Kleinman said. "It's smart of the server manufacturers to offer a technology that is taking over the market," he said. "It gives the manufacturers the opportunity to say, we hear you about power issues, and we hear you about server management problems."
It could also change the shape of how server virtualization gets sold across the industry, said Rich Baldwin, president and CEO of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based HP solution provider that provides services related to VMware.
"It's an interesting competitive way to beat Microsoft, Virtual Iron, XenSource, and everybody else," Baldwin said. "If VMware has the clout to get vendors to bundle [server virtualization software] on their servers, what are the other guys going to do? They'll have to give it away for free."
ESX 3i is functionally equivalent to ESX Server, Balkansky said. The only difference in function is that it does not include the VMware Service Console, which is used in managing the virtual machines. However, Balkansky said, the management can be done via a remote command line interface or via a new set of APIs that VMware is providing. "This is not a crippled function product," he said.
Despite the release of ESX 3i, VMware has no plans to end of life the company's ESX Server, Balkansky said. For years to come, we will continue to innovate ESX. The two architectures can co-exist in the same environment. You can run both on the same server. You can do VMotion between them. Our architectural direction is to migrate customers to 3i. But we'll do it in a nondisruptive way."
ESX 3i will create upsell opportunities for solution providers, Balkansky said. "3i will be embedded in servers," he said. "But most of our customers don't only do virtual machines. They also install the entire VMware Infrastructure 3 suite. This will be a big opportunity for channel partners to go to customers with 3i and sell them the suite."
The VMware Infrastructure 3 suite, or VI3, includes such capabilities as VMotion for non-disruptive migration of virtual machines; Distributed Resource Scheduler, or DRS, for dynamic resource allocation; VMware HA for high availability, and Consolidated Backup for backing up of virtual servers and their data.
Kleinman also sees those channel opportunities. "The real margin from VMware is not from selling the licenses, but in services including educating and training the customer," he said.
ESX 3i is expected to be available in a stand-alone version as well as for embedding on server motherboards, Balkansky said. Pricing of servers with embedded ESX 3i vs. those without the software will be determined by the server OEMs. Stand-alone pricing will be announced when the software becomes available late this year, he said.
VMware is also rolling out new enhancements to two other applications this week.
The first is VMware Site Recovery Manager, which Balkansky said aims to bring automation to the disaster recovery process in three ways.
The first is automating the setting up of a disaster recovery plan, including simplifying how customers and solution providers select which virtual machines are included in the plan, setting up replication between production and disaster recovery sites, and setting up the sequence in which virtual machines are brought back on line.
The second is automating the disaster recovery plan. "Testing is one of the worst parts of disaster recovery," Balkansky said. "It usually doesn't work. With virtualization, you can provide a V-LAN [virtual LAN] inside the server which can simulate a recovery so you can make sure everything comes up OK and in the correct sequence."
The third is to automate the recovery process, including initiating the process and automating the booting of the virtual machines.
The net impact is a faster, cheaper, more reliable disaster recovery which leverages replication technology from data protection software vendors, Balkansky said.
"We provide the automation," he said. "But the replication underneath is provided by our partners' technologies."
VMware Site Recovery Manager will integrate with other VMware software, but requires a separate license. Packaging and pricing will be determined when it becomes available early next year, he said.
VMware is also introducing the Virtual Desktop Manager, a software to broker the connection between thin clients used as virtual PCs with VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and the virtual machines in the physical servers.
Functions include the ability to use Microsoft Active Directory to authenticate users as they log on, and find and assign the right virtual machine for the user, whether it is a dedicated virtual machine or is one that is chosen from a pool of virtual machines. It is expected to be available by year-end, with a price to be determined then.
--With additional reporting by Damon Poeter in San Francisco.