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VMware Makes Move Toward Virtualization As Hosted Service

VMware's Infrastructure Suite lets hosted service providers take a step toward utility computing, where their customers pay for only the resources needed at the moment.

Charles Babcock

June 6, 2007

4 Min Read

As Microsoft struggles on the virtualization front, VMware is expanding its offerings by tapping the software as a service model.

As of June 6, it's offering hosted service providers a way to license its VMware Infrastructure Suite as a monthly subscription based on the actual number of virtual machines that are running.

Under typical hosting service agreements, a customer has to pick a number of servers for a three-year agreement and pay for them, whether they are used or not, said Bogomil Balkansky, senior director of product marketing at VMware. With VMware's Service Provider Program, hosted service suppliers will be able to offer virtual servers to customers.

The arrangement will allow hosted service providers to take a step toward utility computing, where their customers pay for only the resources needed at the moment, not the maximum number of servers that might be needed to meet a peak load.

Hosted service providers will be better able to make use of their own resources, renting capacity on the same server to different customers. Each virtual machine is isolated from the data and applications of the others. One may crash and the others on the same physical server keep running, Balkansky explained in an interview.

VMware is offering service providers its virtualization suite, VMware Infrastructure, which includes its ESX hypervisor for hosting multiple virtual machines and the Distributed Resource Scheduler. The scheduler reacts to increased demand in a data center by moving virtual machines to underutilized hardware, Balkansky said. VMware expects offering virtual machines as a hosted service will expand the market for its virtualization products. Microsoft in contrast said May 11 that it was reducing the number of features it had planned to include in its upcoming Viridian hypervisor. VMware, a unit of storage vendor EMC Corp., plans to offer 10% of its common stock in in a future IPO.

Another virtualization vendor, start-up Trigence, is hammering away on the idea that you can virtualize the application rather than virtualize operating systems with applications at the server level, as VMware and Microsoft and the open source code Xen hypervisor do.

Trigence first aired its application approach at the Demo 06 show in San Diego and has become a leading supplier of virtualization to the Sun Microsystems customer base. Sun's Solaris offers the ability to subdivide a server into zones. Each zone runs an application, separate from other zones.

On the mainframe, this concept is called partitioning and it offers the advantage of letting one operating system supervise many virtual machines, without generating the overhead of an operating system for each virtual machine.

Trigence at Microsoft's TechEd 2007 conference in Orlando June 5 announced the availability as beta software the Trigence Application Environment 3.0 for Windows. The general availability of the software is expected in the fourth quarter.

Unlike Microsoft, Xen and VMware, which let you get started with virtualization for free, Trigence charges on average $50,000 for its server application software. As it runs today on Linux and Unix machines, Trigence AE 3.0 will observe a running application in its physical environment, capture its dependencies and relationships, and package them in a virtualize file format to run in a Linux or Unix virtual machine.

That means an application running on old hardware under Solaris 2.8 can be virtualized and moved to a server running Solaris 10 without a further large investment in its migration. System administrators would still need to provide the databases and other resources needed by the application at the new location but the application doesn't need to be re-engineered to run on Solaris 10. If there are specific dependencies on Solaris 2.8, they will be captured and moved forward with the application.

At the same time, said Trigence President David Roth, the application will be able to leverage the resources of Solaris 10 when it starts running in the new location. An application can migrate to a new server and run there on the physical server as a single file, encapsulated in its virtual file format. Or it can run in a virtual machine on the server.

Another example of where Trigence might be used is taking an application designed for Red Hat Linux 3.0 and migrating it to Red Hat 5.0 or even the latest version of Novell's Suse Linux.

The value add that Tribence provides is not so much its ability to cast an application into a virtual file format, whether Microsoft's Virtual Hard Disk or VMware's Virtual Machine Disk format. Rather, it's the ability to map an applications' interactions and dependent relationships with other systems and capture them in a file that can be moved around with the application, said Roth.

Microsoft, VMware or Xen virtualization allows server consolidation, where many physical machines are moved as virtual machines onto one piece of hardware, leading to more efficient use of hardware resources. Trigence application virtualizes the application and makes it available to migrate to other physical machines, saving IT administrative and application re-development resources, Roth claims. Trigence is a Jersey City, N.J., and Ottawa, Ontario, privately held start up financed by angel investors and a set of Canadian investment firms.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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