Virtual Iron uncloaks its virtualization platform

Quoting from Computer Business Review Online:

The Acton, Massachusetts-based company has recently appointed a new chief executive and changed its name from Katana Technology Inc, as it looks to carve a niche for itself in the data center virtualization market.

Its VFe technology has been under development since 2003 and combines the concepts of bare metal provisioning, server virtualization as practiced by the likes of EMC Corp subsidiary VMware Inc and SWsoft Inc, and clustering and grid technologies.

“We saw those three areas and we wanted to write a single environment that had the attributes of those three separate areas in a single environment,” Virtual Iron founder and chief scientist, Alex Vasilevsky, told ComputerWire. “It’s a virtual computing platform that is decoupled from the underlying computing infrastructure.”

The company differentiates itself from virtual server suppliers like VMware and SWsoft by the fact that its VFe technology enables the creation of virtual machines that span multiple servers and automatically handle workload management between them.

According to Virtual Iron, the building blocks for VFe are x86 processor-based hardware and Infiniband switching fabric. VFe installs the Virtual Iron Foundry layer directly on the hardware to create the virtual computing environment, which can span up to 16 physical servers and manage up to 128 virtual computers.

The technology will support Linux when it is generally available in the second quarter, with other operating systems due to be supported as and when they are demanded by customers. Support for 64-bit processors will also be added later in the year.

Vasilevsky said the beta program for the VFe technology had tested it for its three core attributes: peak load handling without disrupting applications, hardware or services, data center consolidation, and business continuity, although he also maintained “at the end of the day this is a general purpose platform.”

Server virtualization is expected to come to the fore in 2005 as Intel Corp debuts its Vanderpool virtualization technology for IA-32 and IA-64 processors, making it easier to create and management virtual machines.

Additionally, both Red Hat Inc and Novell Corp are expected to include the open source Xen virtualization technology in future versions of their Linux distributions, although no concrete plans have been announced.

Vasilevsky dismissed the impact that the inclusion of Xen could have on its plans to virtualize Linux environments, differentiating VFe from single server virtualization technologies such as Xen and VMware’s GSX Server and ESX Server products.

“It’s two different technologies,” he said. “That’s really taking a single server and carving it up. Single server virtualization we believe will commoditize in two years.” He welcomed Intel’s developments however. “We love hardware platforms coming to market as it enables us to do more,” he said.

Virtual Iron changed its name in January as it appointed John Thibault as president and CEO and confirmed its existing $20m investors as Goldman Sachs, Highland Capital Partners, and Matrix Partners.

Earlier this month it also announced its membership of the Open Source Development Labs Linux promotion consortium and the establishment of an advisory board including Red Hat Inc’s VP of North American sales, Billy Marshall, president of US sales for Sun Microsystems Inc, Richard Napolitano, and former vice chairman of Novell Inc, Chris Stone.

The advisory board also includes experts in computer science, distributed computing systems, and clustering, and will provide consultancy in developing company strategy and technology direction.