3Leaf Takes Virtualization In A Different Direction

The startup treats rack-mount servers as if they were a one machine that functions like a 32-way symmetrical multiprocessor.
3 Leaf Systems wants to let you swap that expensive 32-CPU Unix database server in your data center for small, inexpensive servers. That approach hasn't worked well when others have tried it, but CEO Bob Quinn says 3Leaf can do it.

The V-8000 is ready to virtualize

The V-8000 is ready to virtualize
3Leaf is turning today's popular form of server virtualization--taking an Intel or AMD server and dividing into as many as 12 or 15 virtual machines-- on its head. The startup is treating 30 to 32 rack-mount servers as if they were a single machine that functions like a 32-way symmetrical multiprocessor that's typical of high- end Unix computing, with 16-, 24-, and 32-way hardware coming from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems.

Lower-cost Intel and AMD servers can be combined to serve the same purpose, Quinn says, by using 3Leaf's I/O virtualization engine. The V-8000 Virtual I/O Server acts as a front-end traffic manager, the equivalent of a large computer backplane moving data among the other 30 to 32 low-cost servers in the data center rack.

This is "a RAID approach to server management," says Bryan Doerr, CTO of Savvis, a company that hosts data centers and provides data center services. A redundant array of independent disks is managed as a single pool of storage for many users. Similarly, 3Leaf's Virtual I/O Server treats the 30 to 32 standard-issue servers in a rack as a pooled resource. The V-8000 can assign large enterprise applications, such as database servers, a specific share of the CPU and memory from the servers in the rack it manages.

Savvis would like to build a server that meets its high-end needs simply by plugging more processors, memory, and network interface cards into one box, similar to what 3Leaf is doing, using standard-issue Intel or AMD rack-mount servers, Doerr says.

In evaluating the V-8000, Savvis has found it can virtualize the I/O of a rack of servers as claimed. "They're expanding the virtual machine's borders across hardware boundaries," he says. "To us, that's kind of cool."