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Sunlight aims at more efficient virtualization

Jun 10, 20213 mins
Data CenterVirtualization

Sunlight claims its software streamlines virtual environments, cutting the need for server hardware by two thirds and promising similar power savings.

open door with sunlight shining through
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Virtualization software is dated and does not take full advantage of modern hardware, making it extremely power-inefficient and forcing data centers to overprovision hardware to avoid poor performance.

That’s the pitch of Sunlight, a virtualization-software vendor whose products take advantage of technologies that didn’t exist when Xen, KVM, VMware and Hyper-V were first developed.

“The cloud infrastructure or virtualization stacks have been designed and built 15 to 20 years ago,” said Kosten Metreweli, chief strategy officer of Sunlight. “So the big problem here is that back then, I/O, and particularly storage, was really slow. So fast forward, and we now have NVMe storage, which pushes millions of IOPS from a single device, which is orders of magnitude better than was possible just a few years ago.”

A single NVMe drive requires multiple cores or even multiple CPUs to get the most out of the SSD because there’s so much data I/O, and the existing VM products simply aren’t able to drive that kind of performance, the company claims.

Sunlight CEO Julian Chesterfield should know. Before founding the company he was part of team that built the Xen hypervisor, now owned by Citrix and widely used, including by Amazon Web Services.

“By building a more efficient architecture for the virtualization layer, you’re able to deliver bare-metal performance, as we call it. Effectively, [it’s] the full performance of the underlying hardware rather than only being able to get 10% or 20% of the performance,” he said.

Most companies poor VM performance throw more hardware at the problem. Sunlight says that with its more efficient VM you get 100% of the performance of the underlying hardware and only need 30% to 50% of the infrastructure that you’d have to provision with legacy virtualization.

“The assumption is that hardware is cheap, so these big hyperscalars encourage people to consume more and more infrastructure, because that’s their business model. But of course the carbon impact of that is significant,” said Metreweli.

Chesterfield estimates that hardware requirements can be reduced by as much as two-thirds, depending on the application. Apps heavily dependent on I/O, like analytics or AI, would gain the most.

“By dploying Sunlight, I can deliver the full performance the underlying hardware, so I only need a third as much infrastructure. That means I’ve saved two-thirds of the of the server infrastructure, which translates to two-thirds of the power that those servers would consume,” he said.

Lining Up OEMs

To say Sunlight has an uphill battle would a colossal understatement. But it does have OEM partners, including HP Enterprise and Lenvo, and just signed an edge-computing OEM deal with Altos Computing, a subsidiary of Acer, to deliver hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) appliances. Under the agreement, Altos will embed Sunlight’s NexVisor hyperconverged stack on its Brainsphere appliances.

Sunlight is targeting the edge because Metreweli said that in the edge, the devices are smaller and lower powered than those found in data centers but are far more numerous for organizations like retail chains with multiple sites. “Those are going to have a sickening carbon footprint in their own right. And so being able to keep the infrastructure in those edge environments small and managed is really important,” he said.

Andy Patrizio is a freelance journalist based in southern California who has covered the computer industry for 20 years and has built every x86 PC he’s ever owned, laptops not included.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ITworld, Network World, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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