VMware show opens arms to Xen, Microsoft as event expands

VMware debuts product that brings virtualization to application developers.

Attendees at VMware’s VMworld in Los Angeles this week are getting more than a user conference; this is an industry-focused event aimed at educating IT professionals about the capabilities and benefits of virtualization, whether the technology is rooted in VMware or in offerings from competitors such as Microsoft or open source Xen.

“VMworld is definitely getting big,” says David Payne, CTO at Xcedx, a virtualization consulting firm based in Minneapolis. “It went from being a niche show when this technology was still emerging to now -- I don’t even know what to expect this year. I hear it’s going to be a madhouse.”

If numbers are any indication, Payne may be right. VMware says that it expects twice as many people as last year – about 6,000 – to attend the event that runs Tuesday through Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It’s also expecting to nearly double the number of exhibitors, jumping from about 50 last year to nearly 90 this year.

All the major virtualization vendors are in attendance; Microsoft, XenSource and Virtual Iron have booths. Microsoft is a gold sponsor for the second year in a row.

The event, which debuted in 2003, is weighted heavily toward hands-on labs in which attendees can get a real-world feel for VMware technology. But the show also includes a number of educational sessions and discussions taking a broader industry perspective on how virtualization technology is evolving.

There are also quite a few VMware customers, such as H&R Block, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Nationwide Insurance, talking about their first-hand experiences with virtualization.

“The focus of VMworld is really on two things. One is customers hosting sessions where they talk about how they used virtualization to solve various problems. The other is giving customers the chance to experience [virtualization] technology hands-on,” says Raghu Raghuram, vice president of platform products at VMware.

“This is certainly not a Virtualization 101 conference anymore,” he adds. “This is about, ‘Hey, virtualization is a mainstay of your business. How are you going to do disaster recovery, business continuity, desktop virtualization?'”

News announcements planned at the show illustrate the move beyond simple slicing and dicing of x86 hardware for server consolidation.

VMware, for example, is unveiling Lab Manager, the first product built on technology VMware acquired from Akimbi. Lab Manager integrates with VMware Virtual Infrastructure to extend its virtualization capabilities into software development.

Lab Manager pools virtual resources and enables software developers to configure test and development environments as needed. These software configurations are captured and stored so that developers can easily use and reuse them without needing IT intervention, VMware executives say.

Lab Manager will compete with products from companies such as Surgient and VMLogix. Bangalore, India-based VMLogix is making its U.S. debut at VMworld, unveiling VMLogix LabManager, which like VMware’s Lab Manager, provides a virtualized environment for software test and development.

VMLogix received $3.5 million in a Series A round of funding from Bain Capital Ventures last month. Ravi Gururaj, CEO and founder of VMLogix, says a big difference between VMware’s product and VMLogix LabManager is that VMLogix will support all of the virtualization platforms, VMware, Microsoft and Xen.

VMware partners also are making a number of announcements. VizionCore, for example, is airing updates to esxRanger, for backing up VMware virtual machines, and esxCharter, for monitoring virtual machine performance and diagnosing and resolving problems.

EsxRanger 3.0, generally available later this month, works with VMware’s Consolidated Backup, which offloads virtual machine backup processes from the host server onto a central server. By integrating with VMware’s Consolidated Backup, esxRanger will provide faster image-level backup – meaning it backs up the entire configured virtual machine, including registries, while eliminating overhead on the host server, says Azeem Mohamed, senior director of products and marketing at VizionCore.

VizionCore’s esxCharter 2.0, meanwhile, adds a bill-back capability that will enable customers to use the statistics the software collects for monitoring virtual machine performance to calculate the usage of various virtual machines

EsxRanger is priced at about $500 per CPU and esxCharter starts at around $300 per CPU.

Start-up InovaWave is using VMworld to unveil DXtreme for Windows, a software product that improves the performance of virtual machines by accelerating I/O throughput of virtual workloads.

VMware customer Payne has been testing out InovaWave for about a month and says he’s seeing significant performance improvements.

InovaWave DXtreme “is all about disk I/O and throughput. That’s an area where virtualization, especially VMware virtualization, has severely lacked,” Payne says.

When determining which systems are suited for virtualization, disk I/O constraints are often the biggest roadblock, so with the InovaWave technology, there will be a broader pool of systems that would be appropriate for virtualization, Payne says.

“The potential of the product is huge,” he says.

Also, though not at VMworld, XenSource has announced this week support for Windows, another illustration of the maturing of virtualization technology from VMware competitors.

Learn more about this topic

Xen embraces Windows


VMware beyond the basics


VMware pools virtual resources


VMware acquires virtualization company Akimbi


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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.