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5/20/2010
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Daniel Dern
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ScaleMP vSMP Foundation Offers Virtualization That Aggregates

Where most virtualizers are carving systems into smaller VMs, vSMP Foundation lets SMB IT combine commodity x86 boxes into one large virtualized environment.

Where most virtualizers are carving systems into smaller VMs, vSMP Foundation lets SMB IT combine commodity x86 boxes into one large virtualized environment.Typically -- most of the time, in fact -- when we see the phrase "virtualization" in the context of computers, we take it to mean "divvying up one physical machine with a bunch of resources to act as many (virtual) ones sharing those resources."

One company going against the tide is ScaleMP, Inc., whose vSMP Foundation software, which the company calls "a server virtualization for aggregation platform," lets you aggregate a bunch of machines, e.g., commodity x86 servers, and use them like one bigger one.

According to Shai Fultheim, founder and CTO of ScaleMP, "For example, suppose you have four servers, two sockets, with 32 GB of RAM per server. You can treat it as four servers, four OSs, with all the provisioning issues. Or, using vSMP, take these four servers and treat them as one server with eight sockets, 32 cores and 128GB memory, and put your OS on it, and the OS will see all these resources."

(From what I recall of brief chats at trade shows a few years ago, Virtual Iron also did this -- but back in May 2009, Oracle said they were buying Virtual Iron... and, according to reports, that product is no longer being sold or supported. So, as the late Kurt Vonnegut says, it goes.)

Computer resource aggregation isn't new. Storage virtualization does this -- re-parceling (partitioning) space out again, but from the whole pool. So does some networking... if you've been around long enough to remember dial-up, for example, one way that some users got more speed was by combining two or more dial-up phone lines, using a technique known as "inverse multiplexing," "channel bonding," or, cutely, "reverse milking machine." One or two companies even sold dual-modem card with support built in. (I never got around to trying it). And channel bonding apparently lives on.

But ScaleMP's vSMP Foundation is also useful for SMBs. "Its high performance capabilities and lower management costs are particularly well-suited to companies that do not have a dedicated IT staff, especially, says Fultheim, "those who want to run applications that need more memory or more processing power. Moving up to larger x86 boxes can get very expensive. Using vSMP Foundation both eliminates the forklift upgrade necessary to move from a two-slot to a four-slot system, and makes the total solution far less expensive. For example, you can simply purchase another dual-slot system and use vSMP Foundation to aggregate this plus an existing box m into a four-slot server."

Another distinct advantage of using vSMP Foundation, says Fultheim, is that it leverages plain old x86 systems to build a SMP (Symmetrical Multiprocessing) system, meaning you can scale up without shelling out -- up to one-third less expensive than a traditional large-scale SMP approach, according to Fultheim.

Now where did I put that dual-modem card? ...

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