Virtual Iron Software is racing to catch up with leading server virtualization software vendor VMware with a new set of features it is unveiling a week before the start of the IT industry's largest virtualization conference.
Virtual Iron, of Lowell, Mass., on Tuesday said it is adding a number of new enterprise-level capabilities to its new Version 4 server virtualization software, including an up-to-date Linux kernel, easy conversion of applications from physical servers or VMware virtual servers to Virtual Iron, and increased operating system support.
It is expected to ship next Tuesday at VMworld in San Francisco.
Zeki Yasar, CTP and principal system engineer at IntelliStore, a San Carlos, Calif.-based integrator and partner to both VMware and Virtual Iron who just started working with the latter, said his company is seeing a lot of interest in the new software.
"If we are talking backup or server consolidation or high availability, we somehow get Virtual Iron worked into the conversation," Yasar said.
By carrying server virtualization software from both vendors, solution providers can help address a wider range of customer issues than if they work with one or the other, Yasar said.
While VMware is by far the better known of the two, Virtual Iron Version 4 now has about 90 percent of the features of VMware and is suitable for perhaps 80 percent of potential customers, he said.
"The extra 10 percent of those features are geared towards large enterprises," he said. "Virtual Iron can be limited in the sense that it is simple. It's easy to get up and going for most customers doing consolidation of their server applications."
Virtual Iron has been shipping its software based on the hypervisor from the Xen open source project since last October, and Version 4 now integrates the Xen 3.1 hypervisor which gives it 64-bit capability, support for up to 128 Gbytes of physical memory, and per-guest virtual machine memory limits of up to 32 Gbytes, said Mike Grandinetti, chief marketing officer for the vendor.
With Xen 3.1, Virtual Iron also gets SMP Windows support for virtual servers with up to eight CPU processor cores, and supports both Intel and AMD quad-core processors, Grandinetti said.
Virtual Iron Version 4 now includes integrated kernel and drivers from Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, giving users the benefit of Novell's certification and support for that developer's full range of supported server, storage, and networking hardware, Grandinetti said.
Version 4 also includes LiveConvert, an application which embeds the PowerConvert capabilities of PlateSpin, of Toronto, Ontario, to enable the easy conversion of physical server applications or VMware virtual servers to Virtual Iron virtual servers, Grandinetti said.
Grandinetti said he expects LiveConvert to be used mainly to convert customers' VMware virtual servers to Virtual Iron for the cost savings.
"VMware is five times the cost of Virtual Iron," he said. "Companies dabbling in virtualization with VMware may decide to look at Virtual Iron. Maintenance costs with VMware is expensive."
While Yasar sees cost as a major issue between the two vendors, he expects the LiveConvert capability to be more of a way to get clients to move towards virtualization than a way to move them from VMware.
"Even though there's a lot of buzz about virtualization, I don't think a lot of customers have heard of virtualization," he said. "So this will be used more for getting people to move towards virtualization. For instance, customers don't want to rebuild applications from scratch when replacing servers. This tool allows them to copy mission-critical systems to a virtual machine on the fly."
Also new with Version 4 is increased 32-bit and 64-bit operating system support, including Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Vista, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, Grandinetti said.
The new operating system support is critical, as it had been a major drawback compared to VMware, Yasar said.
"VMware supports virtually every x86 operating system out there," he said. "Getting REL 3 and Vista support in Virtual Iron is important for everybody wanting to get into virtualization."
Virtual Iron Version 4 comes in three editions. The single-server edition allows up to 12 virtual servers to be installed on a physical server using local disk storage, and is available free-of-charge.
The enterprise edition and extended enterprise editions allow an unlimited number of virtual servers, and work with local storage or iSCSI or Fibre Channel SANs. They also include LiveMigrate, which allows virtual servers to be moved from one physical machine to another without downtime, and LiveMaintenance, which moves virtual servers to an alternate location when a physical server is taken down for maintenance.
The extended enterprise edition also includes LiveConvert powered by PlateSpin, LiveRecovery for automated migration of virtual servers in case a physical machine goes offline, and LiveCapacity to migrate virtual servers which require increased resources.
Virtual Iron Version 4 enterprise edition is priced at $499 per socket, which the extended version is priced at $799 per socket.
Virtual Iron is available only through solution providers, who can purchase it through Tech Data, Arrow, and Avnet, Grandinetti said. The company currently has just over 100 solution providers in the U.S., a number which Grandinetti hopes to grow to 250 by year-end.