Hewlett-Packard’s Nick Vanderzweep on virtualization

Quoting from E-Commerce Times:

ECT: So looking ahead — and tying it into your title, which includes both virtualization and utility computing — where is HP going? How about the industry?

Vanderzweep: If you look at our virtualization strategy and think about a graph with an X-Y axis, in the bottom right-hand corner, I’d label that element virtualization, that is the first step in virtualization. The middle box would be integrated virtualization, and up in the top corner — nirvanah — would be something we call the complete IT utility.
Element virtualization is absolutely mainstream. It’s hard not to find a customer who hasn’t, on an Intel server, used DM ware to partition that server into two machines. It’s hard not to find a customer who hasn’t put in a storage array instead of dedicated storage on a server-by-server basis. What element virtualization is all about, though, is virtualizing only one thing, cutting a server in half into two logical servers.
The next step on that graph, integrated virtualization, is where the innovation in the industry is now and certainly where our focus is. That’s where Virtual Server Environment [fits]. It uses those virtualization pieces, but instead of saying, “I need to divide this server into two,” it gets a lot of that automation that’s required. You simply say, “I need sub-second response time for my Web retail system, and I need two-second average response time for my ERP system and I need 30 minute turnaround for batch jobs for my HR system for payroll run.”
You tell the control software, the Virtual Server Environment software, the service levels that you need, and then it will keep moving resources around, changing the size of partitions on the fly to meet those service levels. You can see the difference where we were in the past with element virtualization: [There] we cut a 10 CPU server into two CPUs for Oracle, four CPUs for PDA, for instance. With integrated virtualization, you don’t specify CPUs.
When you get to the Complete IT Utility, that’s where all your data centers, all its resources, are automatically flowed to the right application, at the right time; all the server resources, network resources, storage resources and the software is automatically reprovisioned and moved around in a heterogeneous environment — Windows, Linux, HP/UX, whatever kind of operating system. That’s a little bit more complex to do.
We start them with the basic elements of virtualization, move them towards integrated in some projects and get multiple projects together and then finally move them toward Complete IT Utility.

ECT: And this is something HP already is doing for some clients — moving them to Complete IT Utility?

Vanderzweep: Yes. Primarily where we do the Complete IT Utility for a customer that looks at our portfolio of element, integrated and complete, they usually say, “You know HP, I want to go straight to the top right-hand corner — to the Complete IT Utility,” They will also say, “Ed, HP, since you’re already doing this in your datacenter, why don’t you manage my datacenter or outsource my datacenter and give me all those benefits?”
We’ve done things like that and been public about things like that for many customers — DreamWorks, for example, where we manage their infrastructure and, as they produce a film like “Shrek” or “Shrek 2,” they need to render a film, we do that for them and we charge them based on the number of frames rendered in the film. We’ve really connected up to their business.
Amadeus — you’re probably familiar with Sabre in North America, the booking system — does the same kind of thing in Europe. They came to HP and fell in love with the Complete IT Utility. They said, “Ok, we’re in the airline booking industry. We write software to do that. You, HP, are good at infrastructure. We get paid by the likes of Lufthansa — say, 25 cents — every time we book a seat and a customer actually sits in it. HP, you provide us with infrastructure that grows and shrinks based on supply and demand, and we’ll pay you 5 cents every time a customer sits on an airline seat.”
The more business they get, the more we have to scale that infrastructure up. The less business they get, the more we have to scale it down. Predominantly, if people want to go straight to the upper right corner, we do that through our managed service offering. We have huge amounts of customers who are doing element virtualization. I’d be surprised if I could find an enterprise HP customer that isn’t using some kind of virtualization. It’s the integrated stuff that probably 10 percent of our customer base is kicking the tires with. The Complete IT Utility is a smaller amount, but we do have a tremendous amount of business with our managed services group — companies like DreamWorks, Amadeus, Procter & Gamble, Ericsson — where we implement these capabilities for customers using the 400 datacenters that we’ve implemented.

ECT: Who do you generally encounter in competitive situations?

Vanderzweep: We definitely see IBM (NYSE: IBM) in there. Especially when you’re looking at heading off into integrated and the Complete IT Utility, it really requires you to coordinate and automate the provisioning of these resources — server, networking, storage, software — so the likes of HP and IBM are very well diversified in the IT industry, selling servers, storage, networking, etc. At HP, we have the ability to build things like the Virtual Server Environment, coordinate resources or go all the way up to the Complete IT Utility and manage a company’s environment.
We were out there talking about our vision for utility computing some years ago and we’ve brought a whole set of these products to market in the last two or three years, so we’ve got references after references after references. Execution is our biggest differentiator.

ECT: How about some smaller companies? Or companies like Sun?

Vanderzweep: Because this is a highly innovative space you’ll see lots of start-up companies out there that are making some big inroads. One start-up company was acquired by EMC (NYSE: EMC) a while ago — VMware — and they’re a good partner of ours versus a competitor. They provide the ability to virtualize an x86 Intel Opteron-type system and slice that up into smaller systems. They’re an interesting company.
We see a lot of other start-ups out there. I went to a venture capitalist conference a little ways back — this is a popular area for venture capitalists to invest in and for start-ups to design software and hardware around this area. If you look out, there are 50, 100 start-ups that have a unique piece of the puzzle here. Some of them, over the past few years have been bought up. We, ourselves, have acquired Talking Blocks, Consera, Novadigm and a few others to round out our portfolio of capabilities.

ECT: And I guess that underscores the growing mainstream nature of the market?

Vanderzweep: Oh yes, definitely. You’ve got a few other major players in the marketplace that are not as strong as HP or IBM because they’re not as diversified. You hear Sun talking a little bit, but they have a small portfolio of capabilities compared with the likes of HP. I don’t run into those guys very much. I go more head-to-head with IBM.

ECT: You mentioned heterogeneous environments and standardizing procedures and administration, but are there any technology standards issues that CIOs should be aware of when considering moving into or expanding their use of virtualization?

Vanderzweep: There are things like working groups like W3C and Oasis are working on, and we’re heavily invested into those standards organizations. Web services plays a big role in this because they make it much easier for applications to be compatible in this world, to move resources around. So we’ve been key to developing some of the Web services standards.
Grid services are now being built on top of Web services, and we’re very active in standardization of grid services as well. In fact, HP now holds the chair position in the Global Grid Forum. Standards are expensive initiatives, but they’re very fruitful as well, because HP likes to be able to build on top of standards, then add value to provide differentiation to the market place.
It’s the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of what the customer gets is standards-based infrastructure, then 20 percent is value-add on top of that, which really can differentiate them in the industry so they’re better than the company down the street. The more we standardize, the more we put into the 80 percent, allows us to innovate on top of that, and once it’s standardized, it reduces our cost and we can take our engineering efforts, our innovation efforts, and put them on top of that standard. It accelerates the industry. It differentiates us in the marketplace: It’s good for customers. It’s good for us.

ECT: I think every IT executive has a horror story about lack of standardization.

Vanderzweep: That’s always the case. The Virtual Server Environment; nobody else has got that kind of capability in the industry, but it’s built on top of standards. Where we’ve actually built it, we are working with other companies, standards organizations, etc., to try to take a chunk of our innovation and push it into standards organizations as well, so we can say, “Ok, we can now exit out of that area and move on to the next level of capability on top of the Virtual Server Environment.”
For us, our key areas in this space are storage — our storage grid innovations we’ve been talking about, in servers — our Virtual Server Environment, and we did some announcements just last month with virtualization and automation around our blade servers. We’ve worked with our own networking organization, with Cisco and others, on management of virtual networks, and then, of course, driving standards with Web services and grid services, especially through managing that through our OpenView software.

VMware patches ESX Server

The just released VMware ESX Server 2.5.0 needs an update:

In Build 11343 of ESX Server 2.5, the Management Interface includes an error in the process that edits the properties for raw device mappings (RDMs).

A specific patch or the new build 11548 ISO are available.

Thanks to Steven Bink for this head up.

VMware Workstation 5 Beta Technology Guarantee Program

VMware is granting customers a free update for its most famous product.

When a new version of VMware Workstation is about to be released, the VMware Workstation Technology Guarantee program entitles customers who purchase VMware Workstation within a qualified period to get an electronic download copy of the new release free of charge from the VMware Web site.

Eligibility Requirements
Customers who purchase any Full Product or Academic Product of VMware Workstation during the eligibility period are entitled to get the corresponding VMware Workstation 5, when available, free of charge via electronic download from the VMware web site.

Eligible Products Acquired During Technology Guarantee Program
– VMware Workstation 4.5 (for Windows Operating Systems)
– VMware Workstation 4.5 (for Linux Systems)
– VMware Workstation 4.5 Academic (for Windows Operating Systems)
– VMware Workstation 4.5 Academic (for Linux Systems)

Eligibility Period
Starting from December 16, 2004 to the commercial release of VMware Workstation 5 (expected to occur in the first half 2005).

1. Direct Electronic Download Purchases of Workstation 4.5 from VMware: Upon release of VMware Workstation 5, customers who have purchased product during the eligibility period will be able to download the new software from the VMware Web site. At the time of the release, details on how and where to perform the download will be posted on the VMware web site as well as listed on an email that will be sent out to all eligible customers.

2. Packaged Product purchases of Workstation 4.5 from resellers or directly from VMware: Upon release of VMware Workstation 5, customers who have purchased product during the eligibility period and have registered the serial number for product will be able to download the new software from the VMware Web site. At the time of the release, details on how and where to perform the download will be posted on the VMware web site as well as listed on an email that will be sent out to all eligible customers. VMware determines whether the product purchase occurs during the eligibility period based on the shipment date of the product for a specific serial number. In addition, VMware may require presentment of proof of purchase.

3. The free upgrade to Workstation 5 for eligible customers will be fulfilled via electronic download only (not via packaged versions of Workstation 5).

4. Only Full licenses of Workstation 4.5 are eligible products for the VMware Workstation Technology Guarantee Program. A customer who purchases an upgrade license from Workstation 3.x to Workstation 4.5 during the eligibility period is not eligible for this program. The list price of a VMware Workstation Full license is US$189.00 (Electronic Software Distribution) and US$199.00 (Packaged Software Distribution).

5. Customers who have a Workstation 3.x license must purchase a Full license of Workstation 5 when it becomes commercially available in order to upgrade to Workstation 5. We do not have an upgrade license for upgrading directly from Workstation 3.x to Workstation 5.

6. The free copy of Workstation 5 must be on the same platform and language as the original purchase.

7. Customers are required to visit the VMware Web site and enter their VMware Workstation 4.5 license serial number in order to receive their Workstation 5 license.

8. Customers who are covered under the Premium Support and Subscription Program are covered under its Terms and Conditions for upgrades.

Release: VMware ACE 1.0 released!

VMware just released the brand new product Assured Computing Environment (ACE) for Enterprises:

What Is VMware ACE?
VMware ACE is an enterprise solution for IT desktop managers who want to provision secure, standardized PC environments throughout the extended enterprise. VMware ACE installs easily and improves the manageability, security and cost-effectiveness of any industry standard PC. VMware ACE enables IT desktop managers to apply enterprise IT policies to a virtual machine containing an operating system, enterprise applications, and data to create an isolated PC environment known as an “assured computing environment”. Through Virtual Rights Management technology, VMware ACE enables IT desktop managers to control assured computing environment expiration, secure enterprise information on PCs, and ensure compliance with IT policies.

How Is VMware ACE Used in the Enterprise?
VMware ACE is used across the enterprise to:

– Provision enterprise-standard PC environments on unmanaged remote PCs.
– Provision time-limited, locked-down PC environments on unmanaged guest PCs.
– Secure sensitive enterprise and personally identifiable information on mobile PCs.
– Provision standardized, hardware-independent PC environments on any enterprise PC.

How Does VMware ACE Work?
VMware ACE leverages industry-proven VMware virtual machine technology to provide an isolated PC environment known as an “assured computing environment”. Using VMware ACE Manager, IT desktop managers create projects that include:

– A virtual machine with an operating system, applications, and data
– An application to run the virtual machines
– A set of policies to control the lifecycle and capabilities of the virtual machine

From this project, PC managers create a VMware ACE package that is distributed to end-users via download, DVD, or CD media. VMware ACE enables end-users to run an “assured computing environment” on their desktop or laptop PC. The VMware virtualization layer maps the physical hardware resources to the VMware ACE virtual machine resources, providing the full equivalent of a standard x86 machine within the assured computing environment.

VMware ACE Key Features

– Design once, deploy anywhere. Create standardized hardware-independent PC environments and deploy them to any PC throughout the extended enterprise.
– Virtual Rights Management interface. Control VMware ACE lifecycle, security settings, network settings, system configuration and user interface capabilities.

– Rules-based network access. Identify and quarantine unauthorized or out-of-date VMware ACE environments. Enable access to the network once the VMware ACE environment complies with IT policies.
– Tamper-resistant computing environment. Protect the entire VMware ACE environment, including data and system configuration, with seamless encryption.
– Copy protected computing environment. Prevent end users from copying enterprise information.

– Customizable interface. Customize the behavior and look and feel for end users.
– Flexible computing environment. End users can revert to a previous state within seconds and can work online or when disconnected from the enterprise network.

Next-gen VMware software to get memory boost

Quoting from ZDNet:

VMware, whose software lets a single workstation run multiple operating systems, has begun testing a version of software that uses memory more efficiently.

The number of independent operating systems VMware Workstation currently can run is limited by how much memory a computer has, because each copy –called a virtual machine– needs as much memory as a regular standalone computer. VMware Workstation 5, however, will employ technology that lets the same memory be shared by similar virtual machines.

For example, a machine with 10 instances of Windows, each using 512MB, needs about 5GB of memory today, but typical tasks will let that be cut in half to about 2.5GB, said Michael Mullany, vice president of marketing at VMware. Under best-case circumstances, new virtual machines occupy only 8MB to 12MB, he added.

The new edition is due in the first half of 2005. Like predecessors, it runs only on computers using x86 chips such as Intel’s Pentium and Advanced Micro Devices’ Opteron.

The memory-sharing feature was first introduced in the company’s high-end product, ESX Server, about two years ago, said Srinivas Krishnamurti, the company’s workstation software product manager.

The EMC subsidiary’s basic virtualization technology has been available for years, but the company continues to refine it and add features as new competition arrives in the market. VMware faces competition chiefly from Microsoft, but also from SWsoft, Sun Microsystems and start-up VirtuOS Computing. But VMware is well entrenched in the industry through established partnerships with IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and most recently Oracle.

Boosting memory efficiency is helpful for developers who might want to employ another new feature called Teams, Krishnamurti said. Teams makes it easier to use a single workstation for simulating a multiserver infrastructure–for example, one with a Web browser, a Web server, an application server and a back-end database server.

Teams lets a developer start and stop an entire collection of linked virtual machines, Krishnamurti said. They also can control factors such as boot order so foundational machines such as database servers start up before other modules. And networking links can be throttled to simulate low-speed dial-up connections.

Another feature coming with version 5 will be a better ability to save “snapshots” of the virtual machine, a useful technology for those who want to store a particular state before trying risky software. Currently, only one snapshot may be saved, but version 5 will allow any number, Krishnamurti said.

The new edition will include another tool called “V2V” that will make it possible to convert Microsoft virtual machines to VMware virtual machines.

VMware Workstation works with two categories of operating system: the hosts on which the software runs and the guests that can run as VMware virtual machines. Version 5 will add some new hosts, including SuSE Linux Professional 9.2, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and Mandrake Linux 10. It will come with experimental support for the beta version of Windows Server 2003 SP1 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0, both due in 2005.

The software also will support 64-bit versions of host operating systems from SuSE, with experimental support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

The list of supported guest operating systems is the same as that for hosts, but also includes Sun’s Java Desktop System, VMware said. Sun’s version of Solaris for x86 chips isn’t on the list, though.

“Solaris is one of those operating systems that has some presence in the market, but as of today, it’s not large enough to justify adding support,” Mullany said.

Phantom CodeArts virtualization firm disappeared

Today, doing my usually “virtualization links check”, I discovered CodeArts website disappeard.
CodeArts is a (phantom) company claiming more then two years ago a whole product line about virtualization. Many VMware users asked during these years for trial software or opinions on newsgroups and forums, without obtaining anything concrete.

This should finally solve any doubt about them.

Update: A couple of readers reported that CodeArts has been acquired by HP and their technology has been incorporated in the System Insight Manager (SIM), as confirmed in this document.

Dunes Virtual Service Orchestrator (VS-O) Webinar

Virtual Strategy Magazine arranged a live webinar in collaboration with Dunes:

Webinar – January 5, 2005 – 11:00 a.m. EDT
Join us for this 45 minute webinar. There will be approximately 10 minutes of presentation, 20 minutes of demonstration, 10 minutes of Q&A.

Dunes Virtual Service Orchestrator (Dunes® VS-O™) is a virtual service orchestration software solution for VMware VirtualCenter and Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. Dunes VS-O allows an enterprise to easily apply best practices and business policies. It provides an end-to-end IT service that automates business objectives to make the data center more efficient and adaptive to changing conditions.

Dunes VS-O is the first integrated development platform, based on open standards, that enables rapid design, validation and integration of business processes into the virtualized data center. Combined with an environment that allows virtualization and automation of the virtual infrastructure, it enables the delivery of IT services on demand.

With Dunes VS-O you compose, deliver and guarantee the right services to the right business users at the right time and at the right costs.

VMware opens beta program for Workstation 5.0 beta 2

VMware just released the beta2 of its most famous product: Workstation 5.0. This should be under NDA.
But VMware silently published a link on official site to download new beta 2 for everybody (you just need to register) !

So I will not infringe any NDA publishing what is expected in this new build:

New VMware Tools (updated 2004.12.15)
The new VMware Tools contain new drivers and performance enhancements to upgrade your entire Workstation experience.

Virtual Machine Teams
Workstation 5 introduces an easy way for you to configure complex multi-tier applications on your desktop by leveraging Teams. A Team is a collection of virtual machines connected by one or more private network segments. Once a Team is created, you can operate on it just like you would on a single virtual machine – you can power on/off and suspend/resume Teams with the click of a single button. View active thumbnails of all the virtual machines in a Team. Create private networks for teams, using individual LAN segments that simulate bandwidth caps and packet loss (e.g. network fault injection).

Multiple Snapshot Support (updated 2004.10.25)
Workstation 5 greatly enhances the snapshot functionality available in previous releases of the product. You can now take unlimited numbers of snapshots to capture the state of the environment at different points in time. In addition, you can restore to any previously taken snapshot with the new Snapshot Manager. When you create a new snapshot, a new branch is automatically created so that other snapshots continue to be available. With multiple snapshots, you can keep an arbitrary number of restore points for your virtual machines, allowing you to branch and explore many possibilities—all from the same virtual machine!

Clones: Full and Linked (updated 2004.10.25)
Workstation 5 allows you to clone virtual machines in two different ways – linked and full. If a virtual machine (parent) is available on shared storage, you can get up and running quickly by creating a linked clone of the virtual machine instead of copying it to your PC. Any changes made to the cloned virtual machine are then saved locally. You can now easily collaborate with team members by simply passing along just the changes saved locally instead of the entire virtual machine. Your team members can clone the parent virtual machine and copy your saved changes to their local disk to share your configuration. Linked clones make it easy to set up a single virtual machine as a template and reuse it multiple times with minor modifications, using little additional disk space for each clone. Workstation 5 also supports full clone whereby you can make a complete copy (disks, etc.) of a virtual machine from the user interface.

Support for Isochronous USB Devices
Workstation 5 offers support for Isochronous USB input devices such as web cams and microphones, and output devices such as speakers. Use your webcam or work with multi-track audio—within a guest operating system!

Support for 64-bit Hosts
Workstation 5 improves the experimental support offered in version 4, supporting 64-bit host hardware including the AMD Opteron, Athlon 64 and Intel IA-32e. Workstation also supports new 64-bit host operating systems, including SUSE 9.1, and Windows XP 64-bit edition (experimental support), and Windows Server 2003 64-bit edition (experimental support).

Performance Enhancements (updated 2004.10.25)
We’re constantly improving performance. Workstation 5 reduces guest operating system memory footprint, while enhancing audio, increasing network bandwidth, optimizing disk and memory cache, and much more.

– Snapshot and suspend resume have enhanced performance, and are now background operations whenever possible.
– Enhanced networking performance – Workstation 5 offers enhanced networking performance by leveraging our custom network driver. Once you install the updated VMware Tools, the necessary network drivers install seamlessly to offer improved network performance.
– Better memory utilization when running multiple virtual machines concurrently – Workstation 5 includes significant improvements in memory utilization when multiple virtual machines are used concurrently. This allows you to efficiently run multiple virtual machines with much less total memory.
– Shared folders and Sound features are improved in Workstation 5.

We want you to have the best experience possible, whether you run multiple virtual machines or only one at a time.

Enhanced Guest OS Support (updated 2004.10.25)

– Java Desktop System — support now included in VMware Workstation.
– Mandrake 10
– Experimental support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 beta
– Experimental support for SUSE 9.2

New Linux Features (updated 2004.10.25)

– Workstation 5 offers a gtk2-based user interface on Linux, which provides an improved look and feel, and enhanced usability
– Workstation 5 streamlines VMware Tools installation for Linux virtual machines by allowing you to install VMware Tools without exiting the X session.
– Now you have a choice how to install VMware Tools on Linux guests: use the new rpm installer, or the traditional tar installer.

VMware V2V Assistant
Now you can convert a virtual machine created in Microsoft® VirtualPC™ or VirtualServer™ for use with Workstation 5! The V2V Assistant—a separately-downloadable Windows application—creates a VMware virtual machine without changing your VirtualPC virtual machine.

Windows Upgrade Installs
On Windows hosts, you can automatically install a new release over an existing Workstation release. The installer automatically uninstalls the previous version before installing the new version.

Movie Capture
Workstation 5 now offers you the ability to record all activity in a virtual machine and save it in an .avi format. The resulting .avi file can then be replayed on any Windows PC running our playback codec. The codec is installed automatically with Workstation 5, and you can also download a stand-alone installer from the VMware website.

Movie capture has many uses, such as giving you the ability to record steps to reproduce defects in a particular configuration, or to record configuration steps prior to running an application, etc. (Note this release does not include recording audio with movies.)

NX Bit Support
Workstation 5 offers guest operating system support for the “no execute” NX page table protection bit, also called Execute Disable Bit (EDB) technology. Aimed at thwarting malicious buffer overruns, NX/EDB allows properly-written applications to designate memory space as executable, preventing execution of any code trying to access other memory space.

Command Line Utility for Teams
Use the new vmrun command line utility for automating team operations.

Experimental Support for Guest ACPI S1 Sleep
Workstation 5 VMware Tools provide experimental support for guest operating systems that enable ACPI S1 sleep. (This feature requires you to have the latest VMware Tools installed.)

Katana Technology takes new approach to server virtualization

Quoting from ARNnet:

Katana Technology, the 30-person company has not yet revealed details of its upcoming product, but appears to have developed a novel approach to consolidating data center resources.

Founded in 2003, Katana has developed software that runs directly on computer hardware, beneath the operating system. The software can run a number of virtual machines on a single server. A virtual machine is a self-contained operating environment consisting of software that appears, to an application or an operating system, as though it’s an entire computer.

Software from rival developers also accomplishes the feat of managing multiple virtual machines on servers, but Katana’s technology can also be used to make a large number of smaller PCs appear to be a very large, symmetric multiprocessing machine, Katana’s president and chief technical officer, Scott Davis, said.

Katana’s approach to virtualization is similar to that pioneered by Digital Equipment’s VAX clusters, but the technology is designed to work with hardware and software that is much more widely adopted than Digital’s proprietary products, said Davis, who once served as the technical director for VAX clusters.

The initial release of the Katana product, expected in April, will work with Red Hat and Novell’s distribution of the Linux operating system and with hardware based on Intel’s x86 microprocessors, he said.

One of the key benefits of the Katana technology is that it can be used to take applications that are normally installed on large multiprocessor systems and run them on a number of smaller, less expensive dual-processor machines, according to Davis. Such applications include database or enterprise resource planning systems.

“Trying to split an application across multiple systems is hard,” Davis said. “We’ve done that through virtualization, and that’s one of the key differentiators that we have that nobody else has.”

More details on the Katana products will come during an official company launch in February, by which point Katana expects to have changed its name to VirtuOS Computing.

The technology, currently being tested in a number of pilot projects, will only work with computers that use network-based storage, Davis said. Servers in a Katana-managed system will start up a virtual machine instead of an operating system. That virtual machine will be managed by special hardware that will pool data center resources into “virtual computers” that will, in turn, start up the operating system, according to Davis.

“They are really virtualizing the hardware below the operating system, which makes them different,” analyst with The Yankee Group, Dana Gardner, said. Because Katana makes it possible for users to gradually add more processors to their virtual server environment it will be particularly appealing to users who are looking for a flexible way to add computer power to their applications, and who are looking for a way to make more efficient use of their data center resources, he said.

Because of limitations in a portion of the Linux kernel, called the scheduler, Katana’s virtual SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) machines can be no larger than 16 processors. Gardner, however, believes the technology may appeal to users who are looking to build the equivalent of 4-processor or 8-processor SMP machines out of inexpensive dual-processor systems.

Katana joins a growing number of vendors hoping to sell this kind of technology. Research firm IDC estimates that virtualization software sales amounted to US$4.3 billion in 2003, and will grow to US$14.2 billion by 2008.

In addition to major vendors like IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, a host of smaller vendors, including Cassatt, Platform Computing and VMware, have entered the market.

“Each one of these people has come up with a way to build a virtual environment,” said Dan Kusnetzky, an IDC analyst also briefed by Katana. “The trickiest thing about any of these approaches is how do you take applications that were never written to be virtualized and somehow create a virtual environment that they can flow into without requiring changes.”

Davis believes that his engineers accomplished this.

“Sometimes you want to carve up a physical system into multiple smaller systems; other times you want to aggregate systems together, other times you want to create high available virtual computers,” he said. “We do all of those things and it’s all transparent to the applications because we’ve done virtualization at the right level.”

Davis did not provide naming or pricing information on the Katana product.