Will Virtual Iron Stop the VMware Freight Train?: Page 2

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Yet XenSource has a towering size advantage over Virtual Iron. XenSource’s corporate parent Citrix, armed with a $3 billion market cap and 4,900 employees, is well equipped to push its offering into the emerging virtualization market. Walsh readily acknowledges the resource gap.

“Citrix is putting hundreds of people on it and millions of dollars of marketing,” he says. “They’ve said ‘This is the way to go’ but they don’t have the functionality.”

(That last bit from Walsh – “they don’t have the functionality” – is a standard issue rotten tomato, which XenSource and Virtual Iron routinely hurl at each other. This past summer a minor contretemps broke out when XenSource CTO Simon Crosby suggested that Virtual Iron was mooching off the open source Xen project, a charge that VI exec Tony Asaro called “dangerous” and “irresponsible.”)

One advantage of Virtual Iron’s small size: with revenues at a lower starting point, it’s easier to create dramatic percentage increases. Since the firm is privately held its income can’t be independently verified, but Walsh claims that revenues have been zipping upward at 25 percent, quarter over quarter, since late last year.

He expects this geyser of cash to continue. “I know I can sustain a 25 percent quarter-over-quarter growth for quite some time,” he says. “I’m over-accomplishing that now.”

Moreover, there’s big news on the way. “There’s a couple things that will be announced in Q4-Q1, some larger relationships that will provide us larger validation and greater traction,” Walsh says. “But that’s really built on a lot of sweat equity in what I’ll say is a true VMware alternative without the cost and complexity of VMware.”

The All-Important Management Software

Founded in 2003, Virtual Iron originally focused on server aggregation; its software enabled datacenters to create a pooled virtual machine from a room full of single processor servers. But as multi-core processors became the norm, Virtual Iron reversed course. In October 2006 it launched the open source Virtual Iron 3.0.

It’s the company’s background in server provisioning that now helps it compete in the sophisticated world of virtualization management.

“Imagine a company that had a platform that would take all those disparate resources – CPU, memory, network bandwidth, storage – and aggregate up,” Walsh says. “Imagine all the complexity you had to keep track of in that environment, as you had all these boxes present up to key applications like Oracle, a big 16-way processing environment.”

Handling complex tasks enabled Virtual Iron software to develop a top-flight management layer on its core hypervisor, Walsh explains. “What we have, and what VMware has, is an architecture different than the others. We have a separate layer of management. VMware is using the term VirtualCenter. Ours is called VI–Center. It’s a control and coordination layer.”

The all-important management layer provides intelligent oversight to the various OSes and applications sharing space on a server. It allows tasks like high availability of processing power, optimization (directing CPU resources where its needed most) and power conservation (shutting down machines on nights and weekends).

The technology looks like this, with the management layer being the VI–Center:

virtualization management layer

But for Virtual Iron – or any company – to compete for top honors in virtualization management is a tough job. The reason: it’s what every last competitor has their eye on.

Everyone knows the hypervisor is yesterday’s battle. “What every [vendor] is going for is that management layer above – that’s where they can add value,” says Dan Olds, lead analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group.

Currently it’s generally accepted that VMware has the best management layer. “If you compare them to Oracle and Xen and Microsoft, theirs is probably the most comprehensive,” Olds says. “But the other thing that starts happening is, you start bumping up against HP, IBM, CA, and everybody else who’s got management suites, trying to do the same thing.”

The Holy Grail of virtualization is, in fact, meta-management. It’s a solution that enables a company not to cobble together various vendors, but to buy one unified software tool that turns a datacenter into a single automated unit – one that handles any flavor of any OS. (Which – and this doesn’t get talked about much – also means fewer IT staff.)

It’s about “being able to manage that from ‘one pane of glass’ as they say,” Olds says. “IBM is doing the same play with their IBM Director. What you don’t have from VMware’s standpoint, or at this point from Microsoft or even Oracle, is the ability to really manage all those other machines.”

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Tags: open source, Microsoft, virtualization, VMware

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