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Virtualisation is 'the new mainframe,' VMware says

James Niccolai | April 22, 2009
The company hopes customers will run big enterprise applications on its platform

VMware CEO Paul Maritz was joined by Dell CEO Michael Dell to launch VMware's new vSphere 4 software at the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, California, Tuesday (21 April).

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA, 21 APRIL 2009 - VMware launched an upgrade to its core software platform on Tuesday (21 April) with the message that virtualisation is ready to run any class of enterprise application, no matter how large.

"Virtualisation is the mainframe for the 21st century," said Stephen Herrod, VMware's CTO, at an event to launch the company's new vSphere 4 software, an update to Virtual Infrastructure 3, at its headquarters in Palo Alto, California.

VMware says the software will allow companies to transform their data centres into a "virtual compute cloud," where applications can be moved fluidly across compute, network and storage resources to wherever capacity is available. It's due for release by the end of the quarter.

VMware's goal Tuesday was to convince customers that virtualisation, widely used for server consolidation and to set up test and development environments, is now reliable and scalable enough to run large databases and other critical applications.

The message was hammered home by a lineup of industry bigwigs that included Michael Dell, Cisco's John Chambers, Intel senior Vice President Pat Gelsinger, and Joe Tucci, chairman of EMC, which owns a stake in VMware.

"We can see from the demonstrations and the testimonials today that there are no applications -- no applications -- that can't be run in a virtualised environment," Tucci said.

At the heart of VMware's claim are new performance capabilities in vSphere. The software can now manage a cluster of computers with up to 32 physical servers, 2,048 processor cores and 32TB of RAM, according to VMware. Perhaps more importantly for database applications, VMware says it has doubled the maximum I/O operations its software can perform, to more than 200,000 per second.

In a jab at the big systems vendors, VMware assembled a group of servers by the stage, including a Sun Sparc machine, to show how much capacity can now run in a vSphere cluster. A handwritten sign on the Sun machine had the word IBM crossed out and replaced with Oracle, which just beat IBM in a deal to acquire Sun.

VMware CEO Paul Maritz took another jab at IBM, sometimes called a pioneer of virtualisation because of its use of the technology in its mainframes.

"Even IBM, which likes to claim to be the inventor of virtualisation, didn't fully realize and anticipate what could have been done with this technology," Maritz said. "It's not about individual machines but about how groups of servers relate to each other."

Beyond the hype and the bluster, some analysts and customers at the event said there is some validity to VMware's claims. Thanks to enhancements in Intel's new Nehalem processors, as well as the improvements in vSphere, virtualised servers can now run much more demanding applications, said Chris Wolf, a senior analyst with Burton Group.

 

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