VMotion, which can move a running virtual machine from one physical server to another, is being extended to include storage, so a virtual machine's underlying disk array can be shifted as well.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

October 4, 2007

3 Min Read

VMware will upgrade its ESX Server hypervisor and its Virtual Infrastructure 3 management software before the end of the year, extending its popular VMotion tool's migration capability to storage as well as physical servers.

VMotion as it exists today is part of Virtual Infrastructure 3. It is capable of moving a running virtual machine from one physical server to another without disrupting end users. It's a leading feature of Virtual Infrastructure 3. The capability is a boon to the operations staff, since a physical server can be taken down for maintenance whenever managers decide it is appropriate rather than when end users are absent.

Now VMware is extending a similar capability to storage, where a virtual machine's underlying disk array may be shifted as well. The capability would allow old disks to be unplugged and new ones plugged in "and the end user knows nothing about it," said Bogomil Balkansky, senior director of product marketing in an interview.

Both the original VMotion and VMotion for Storage require the underlying storage system to be a shared storage system using VMware's proprietary file system, VMFS. Balkansky said that virtual machine files stored under VMFS cannot be migrated live into a storage array using a competing Veritas file system.

Nevertheless, VMotion for Storage can migrate stored virtual machine files across different types of storage, including iSCSI, Fiber Channel, and direct attached storage, provided they're all being run under VMFS, Balkansky said.

VMware is addressing another pain point for the virtual machine operations manager, the management of updates and patches. Both running and offline virtual machines may need patches and updates. Security managers like to ensure they are upgraded at roughly the same time. Update Manager is a new addition to Virtual Infrastructure that automates the application of patches to both ESX Server hosts and the virtual machines running under them. At this point, it can handle updates to only the Windows and Linux operating systems running in the virtual machines. It also patches to ESX Server itself.

Distributed Resource Scheduler, the management tool that monitors virtual machine operation and reallocates memory or CPU based on demand, is needed to use the new Update Manager. DRS comes in the $5,750 Enterprise edition of Virtual Infrastructure 3, but not the lower priced $995 Foundation [formerly Starter] edition or mid-level $2,995 Standard edition.

In a pricing change reflecting competition from Xen, VMware will lower the two-way server price of ESX Server 3.5 to $495 before the end of the year. It is currently listed at $1,000 on VMware's Web site.

VMware is also adding Distributed Power Management as a feature of Distributed Resource Scheduler to aid Scheduler in determining how many physcial servers are needed to run a virtual workload, then power off those that are not.

The upgraded 3.5 release of ESX Server will support up to 64 GBytes of RAM and 128 GBytes of total memory, when it becomes available before the end of the year. The limits were previously 16 Gbytes and 64 GBytes.

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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