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7/13/2010
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VMware Upgrades vSphere VM Environment

Speed and scalability of live virtual machine migrations are substantially increased with the 4.1 release.

VMware has enabled its vSphere 4.1 to manage eight, simultaneous live migrations of virtual machines at a time, compared to the two enabled under the 4.0 release of vSphere. That means there's going to be a lot more moving parts in your virtualized data center.

Those vMotion migrations will occur five times as fast as they used to, resulting in shorter interruptions for end users whose VMs are being moved from one physical server to another. That makes live migration a more useful tool for data center managers who want to load balance to conserve energy or spread out demand, said Bogomil Balkansky, VP of product marketing.

VSphere, first launched May 21, 2009, is the former Infrastructure 3 in VMware's lexicon, a general purpose VM environment that can provision and tear down VMs. Individual VMs are managed through a management console, vCenter Server, that sits on top of vSphere 4.1. It's vCenter commands that trigger a vMotion live migration of a VM; vSphere 4.1 provides the muscle to execute the commands on the server.

The 4.1 release increases scalability in a number of other ways. A single vCenter Server console could formerly manage up to 3,000 VMs; now it can direct 10,000. In the past, a single server cluster could be managed as a unit with up to 1,280 VMs. Under vSphere 4.1 and vCenter Server, it can now have 3,000 VMs, Balkansky said in an interview.

Likewise, one vCenter console could formerly manage up to 300 physical servers; now the number is 1,000. The expanded scalability of vSphere 4.1 is intended to give both enterprises and public cloud providers a way to provide virtualized resources on a larger scale, Balkansky said.

The 4.1 release uses memory compression -- the ability to shrink the amount of memory that a VM uses when its data load decreases, making more memory available to other VMs. The feature compresses the data being held in a memory page, said Balkansky, allowing vSphere 4.1 to handle up to 25% greater demand for memory without running out of the limited resource. The capability increases the number of VMs that can occupy a single physical server, and in some cases, VMware customers are running 50 or 60 VMs per server, he said.

The capabilities of 4.1 are also aimed at being able to guarantee service levels of network and storage resources attached to VMs, giving virtualized data center managers a better handle on guaranteeing performance levels for their customers, he added. The new controls in 4.1 dynamically allocate network and storage resources based on business priority, something like VMware's management tool, Distributed Resource Scheduler, manages CPU resources across server clusters.

VMware has 170,000 licensed customers of vSphere, Balkansky said. But it wants to expand the customer base among small and medium-sized business, which are often already Microsoft Windows shops and sometimes inclined to adopt the next technology built into Windows. Windows Server now includes the Hyper-V hypervisor. To gain a greater foothold, VMware has offered over the past three months a $495 version of the vSphere Essentials Kit for three servers, compared to a regular price of $995. The results of that offering have prompted it to lower the vSphere Essentials price to $495, Balkansky said.

Pricing on the high-end Enterprise Plus version of vSphere 4.1 remains $3,495; the Enterprise version is $2,875; the Advanced version, $2,245, and the Standard version, $995.

The vCenter suite of management products will be charged for on a per-VM basis in the future instead of a per-server basis, he said.

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