Tool partitions one processor into 10

Newcomer Virtual Iron Software last week introduced virtualization software designed to turn individual servers and groups of machines into symmetric multiprocessing systems.

The company's x86-based software differs from virtualization tools sold by Microsoft and VMware because it not only can partition a single processor but can work across up to 16 processors on separate machines to handle application workloads. Virtual Iron's software can partition a single processor into 10, according to the company.

Each virtual computer is capable of running a separate Novell or Red Hat Linux instance, and because it is isolated from other operating systems can dynamically draw from a common pool of computing resources such as memory, processors, disk and network I/O. The company says this is more efficient than running a bunch of single-function servers.

The software includes VFe Foundry, which separates applications from underlying hardware and operation system software. This secures the applications, protecting them from disruptions from other applications, the company says.

Policy and management software, dubbed VFe Manager, lets IT managers set QoS requirements and remotely manage virtual computers on a network, re-provisioning resources to applications as necessary using pre-written scripts or programs.

PROFILE: VIRTUAL IRON SOFTWARE (formerly Katana Technologies)
Location:Acton, Mass.
Founded:March 2003
Business:Virtualization software
Founders:Scott Davis, strategy and corporate development, and CTO (previously with Mangosoft); Alex Vasilevsky, EVP technology and architecture, and chief scientist (previously with Ucentric Systems).
Funding:$20 million from Highland Capital Partners, Matrix Partners and Goldman Sachs.
Employees:35
Notable fact: CEO and President John Thibault ran unsuccessfully for the Massachusetts Senate.

"It is potentially advantageous to virtualize across systems at a low level, rather than virtualize one system at a time and then tie it together with higher-level software," says Gordon Haff, senior analyst for consultancy Illuminata.

However, he says that latency could be a concern.

"Creating virtual [symmetric multiprocessing servers] from multiple systems across a fabric raises some real questions about performance," he says. "Latency and communications time is much greater over a system-to-system link, even InfiniBand, than within a single box."

The product, which is scheduled to ship in the second quarter, is now in beta tests. It will be priced based on the number of virtual servers created. The management software will be priced separately.

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