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AMD, Red Hat Show Virtual Server Move From Intel Server To AMD

The two companies got together this week to show that it is possible to migrate virtual machines from a physical Intel-based server to a physical AMD-based server, but commercialization of the capability is still some time away.

The two on Thursday showed how a virtual machine could be migrated from a dual-socket Intel Xeon DP Quad Core E5420-based physical server to a physical server based on the AMD Barcelona processor.

They then migrated the virtual machine to a physical server based on AMD's upcoming "Shanghai" 45nm Quad-Core Opteron processor, all without disrupting the virtual machine's operation.

The demonstration was recorded by AMD and Red Hat, and made available here on YouTube.

Tim Mueting, product manager of virtualization solutions at AMD, said that his company has been working with all the server virtualization vendors to improve on live virtual server migration, but is first demonstrating the new capability with Red Hat because of the close partnership between the two.

"We didn't just pick one partner over another," he said. "We wanted to get this out now. We are looking to announce the Shanghai processor next week."

AMD is currently in discussions with other server virtualization vendors such as VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix about the capability, Mueting said.

Both Intel and AMD have built technology into their processors that allows virtual servers built using software like VMware's ESXI to be migrated with applications like VMware's Enhanced VMotion between servers that feature different generations of their processors, as long as that movement is Intel-server-to-Intel-server or AMD-server-to-AMD-server.

However, until now, no one has been able to migrate virtual machines between physical servers based on the two vendors' architecture, Mueting said.

In fact, Mueting said, it was publicly stated during VMworld in September that such a capability could never happen.

Mueting declined to say who made that statement, but published reports from various sources attributed such a comment during VMworld to Doug Fisher, vice president of Intel's Software and Solutions Group and general manager of Intel's Systems Software division.

VMware officials were unable to comment on the AMD-Red Hat demonstration.

However, Richard Brunner, chief platform architect for R&D at VMware, in an e-mailed response, said that "VMware currently provides full support for Enhanced VMotion Compatibility, which allows live migration of enterprise workloads across different processor families. This technology provides customers the flexibility to move these workloads across different processor iterations in a stable and reliable way — enabling them to create larger compute pools without the stability concerns of attempting to make cross-vendor x86 instruction sets and features compatible."

A VMware spokesperson later clarified the phrase "across different processor families" to mean "different generations of processors from the same manufacturer."

Mueting said that the AMD-Red Hat virtual machine migration technology, which was demonstrated by moving a virtual machine from an Intel-based server to AMD-based servers, could also be used to go the other way.

"We wanted to show Intel workloads migrating to AMD," he said. "But there's nothing to stop one from going the other way."

Mueting also said that it's important to remember that Thursday's demonstration was only a demonstration, and that he cannot say when a commercialized version of the technology will be ready to ship.

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