Intel Expands Pact With VMware

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Intel's announcement with VMware, which comes roughly one month after AMD announced its would preload Xen open source virtual software on its AMD64 systems in the first half of 2005, promises availability of VMware's software for Intel's processor virtualization technology for desktop processors in 2005 and server proceesors in 2006.

VMware Vice President of Alliances Brian Byun said the Palo Alto, Calif., company has been collaborating with Intel for a significant period of time and is demonstrating its VT-enabled software running on Xeon servers on the IDF show floor this week. The collaboration will enable 64-bit extended operating systems including forthcoming Windows and existing Linux distributions to run as guests on VMware's virtualization software running on Intel servers that use VT-enabled processors.

At IDF, Intel also announced the official naming of its hardware virtualization technology, Virtualization Technology, formerly code-named Vanderpool, and announced that its Active Desktop Management technology -- closely linked to its virtualization efforts -- will be available for desktops later this year and for servers early next year.

Intel and VMware said their expanded pact calls for more technical collaboration and joint marketing activities on VT but the two companies acknowledged that the alliance is not exclusive.

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Intel, for example, is also working with other virtualization software suppliers including Microsoft and open source company XenSource to optimize their software offerings for Intel's long awaited virtualization technology, said Patrick Bohart, virtualization technology marketing manager for Intel.

Meanwhile, VMware will participate on a virtualization panel with Intel rival AMD on Wednesday.

Intel said existing virtualization software solutions are complex to deploy and require significant management overhead. The processor technology will not make VMware, Virtual Server or Xen obsolete but it will make management easier.

VMware said the 64-bit extended support for VT will allow its resellers to sell virtual software into customers running 64-bit extended systems and allow for mixed 32-bit and 64-bit extended virtual workloads.

Channel partners will also benefit form the stepped up marketing and support efforts between the two companies, Byun said. VMware and Intel, for example, will produce marketing support materials that convey the benefits of the integrated hardware and software virtualization solutions for business customers and consumers.

Intel plans to release VT-enabled Itanium 2 server processors during the second half of 2005 and for Xeon 64-bit extended server processors in 2006.

Intel said the VT processor technology combined with software will more broadly expand the benefits of virtual technology to consumers and enable channel partners to build better solutions that address the security and management pain points of virtualization software.

At the show, Intel said it will make its Active Management Technology (AMT) for desktops available later this year, and early next year for servers, while announcing it has revealed specifications for the technology to a limited group of developers.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker said AMT would first be available in late 2005 with release of its "Lyndon" processor for desktops, and for its Bensley server platform in 2005.

AMT, which Intel first began talking about last year, has been designed to enable remote IT management, problem discovery and repair of glitches and problems that currently require on-site service. The technology is part of Intel's desktop and server virtualization efforts, which it is linking closely to its "platformization" strategy.

In spite of those management efforts on Intel's part, VMware insists that its leading ESX cross platform virtualization solution outstrips the capabilities of Microsoft Virtual Server and Xen and its more advanced management platform has no competition today.

"We think Xen is an emerging and nascent virtualization solution," said Byun, noting that it will likely take four to five years before Xen is a production ready competitor. "Things don't happen overnight."

VMware resellers said that contention is true but the best-of-breed poduct doesn't always win in the technology market. Some partners are worried about inroads made by Microsoft Virtual Server against VMware in the marketplace and the potential of big Linux backers such as IBM to push Xen open source more aggressively than VMware. EMC's acquisition of VMware in late 2003 stunned IBM, a close VMware ally.

"There is no way that Xen or Microsoft will ever catch up to the complexity of VMware's offerings," said Robert Kusche, eServer and Linux Solutions Architect, rs-unix, an IBM Premier Business Partner. "The catch is that most sites don't need that much functionality."