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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

"All companies should be asking, not why should I virtualise this application, but why shouldn't I virtualise it?" he said.

But VMware still doesn't provide all the management capabilities needed to treat a cluster of industry-standard servers as if it were a mainframe or large Unix system, he said.

For example, VMware DRS, a tool that monitors the CPU and memory usage in a pool of servers to identify the most efficient place to run a virtual machine, still does not take into account other aspects such as I/O utilization.

And while Maritz talked about interoperability and the danger of "lock-in" from other cloud providers, vSphere cannot be used to manage hypervisors from Microsoft and Citrix Systems. VMware says there isn't enough demand for those platforms in the market yet to justify its investment to support them.

But some of its customers are using them today. Christopher Rence, CIO of predictive analytics company Fico, said his company has mostly standardized on VMware, but Fico is also piloting Microsoft's Hyper-V technology and will use it in some areas.

That's because some of its customers, which include credit-card companies for which Fico tests and builds analytics applications, are using Hyper-V in their own data centers. The ability to manage Hyper-V with vSphere would be a benefit to the company, Rence said.

But he is also a big fan of VMware's technology, which has helped Fico, formerly called Fair Isaac, to consolidate 24 data centers down to four. The company uses VMware widely for test and development and is also piloting some large database projects on vSphere, including applications that process up to 1,100 transactions per second, he said.

Fico also uses vShield Zones, a new technology in vSphere, to enforce security and compliance policies across a group of virtual machines. The technology allows it to move those virtual machines to a different cluster pool and carry the security policies with them.

VSphere 4 also adds fault tolerance capabilities; thin storage provisioning, which allows less physical storage to be allocated to a virtual machine; storage vMotion, for switching an application between storage systems while it is still running; and a "distributed switch" developed with Cisco.

Big companies aren't VMware's only target. VSphere includes a new edition, vSphere Essentials, that starts at US$995 for three servers. Small companies can virtualise a pool of three or four servers, so that a workload can fail over to a different system in the event of a hardware failure, Maritz said. The high-end edition of vSphere, Enterprise Plus, starts at $3,495 per CPU.

 

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