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Virtual Iron Shows Investors Flocking To Virtualization Plays

As its fifth round of funding rolls in, the company presents itself as more industry standards compliant and less of a proprietary company than VMware.

Virtual Iron Software announced another round of funding worth $20 million, bringing the total for the company to $65 million in five years.

Although it has yet to match the $2 billion that Sun Microsystems said last November it will to pour into virtual software R&D, Virtual Iron's total suggests the large sums that investors are willing to put behind any credible virtualization play. IDC estimates virtual software will amount to a $9 billion market by 2012.

The latest round -- its fifth -- was supplied by Highland Capital Partners, Matrix Partners, Goldman Sachs, Intel Capital, and SAP Ventures. Virtual Iron has produced a product line that follows and in some ways matches that of VMware, according to reviewers. Virtual Iron presents itself as more industry standards compliant and less of a proprietary company than VMware. Its Virtual Iron hypervisor is based on open source Xen and supports Microsoft's VHD virtual machine file format.

Speaking at a recent virtualization forum in San Francisco, Virtual Iron CEO and President Ed Walsh urged listeners to make their virtualization decisions carefully and avoid vendor lock-in.

"Storage design decisions are critical. Don't build out separate islands," he advised, in a tacit swipe at VMware. VMware's popular VMotion product can move running virtual machines around, provided they are using a shared storage file format from VMware. Virtual Iron offers LiveMigration in place of VMotion.

The Lowell, Mass., firm has previous received $8 million in 2003, $12 million in 2004, $11.5 million in 2005, and $13.5 million in July 2007, according to company spokesmen. The same backers have been involved in the previous rounds. Intel is interested in speeding up adoption of virtualization via investment through its venture capital arm because virtualized servers in many cases thrive with the latest versions of its chips. Hooks to the hypervisor have been built into the chips instruction set to speed some forms of virtualization processing requirements.

VMware is the market leader with $1.3 billion in revenue for fiscal 2007, an increase of 88% over the year before.

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