Virtualisation freebies aim to draw developers, users

Virtualisation freebies aim to draw developers, users

IT vendors Monday rolled out a raft of new incentives aimed to propel the adoption of virtualization technologies.

IT vendors Monday rolled out a raft of new incentives aimed to propel the adoption of virtualisation technologies.

Virtualization, which enables the sharing and pooling of resources such as servers, storage and networking, is gaining more traction among businesses looking to lower costs and increase flexibility, said vendors and users at the IDC Virtualization Forum in New York.

Market-research company IDC estimates spending around server virtualization will increase to nearly US$15 billion worldwide by 2009, and panelists at the event said users are now looking to extend the use of virtualization beyond servers.

"Server consolidation is the most obvious, long-standing use case, but virtualization is like a Swiss army knife. You can use it in a number of different situations," said Raghu Raghuram, vice president of data center and desktop platform products for VMWare. Among those emerging areas are disaster recovery, desktop consolidation and offshoring infrastructure, said Raghuram.

VMWare at the show launched a free, entry-level hosted virtualization product in beta for Linux and Windows servers.

"VMWare Server is a free product directed at people that are coming to speed with virtualization and want to know what it is about," said Raghuram. "There's still a huge segment of the market that has not yet tried virtualization."

The beta version is available for download now, with general availability slated for later in the first half of 2006.

Also at Monday's event, rival chip makers Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Intel came out with their own new initiatives to fuel adoption of virtualization technologies.

AMD said it would provide hardware and software developers a free license for its I/O virtualization technology specification. The specification is geared to extend the benefits of CPU-assisted virtualization by addressing performance bottlenecks and security issues that can occur when virtualizing I/O devices in x86-based servers, desktops, and notebook computers. AMD expects to extend support for the I/O virtualization technology, a complement to the company's CPU (central processing unit) virtualization technology formerly code-named "Pacifica," into all its processors by mid-year and to implement it into chipsets and core logic for AMD64-based platforms later this year.

Intel, meanwhile, announced that it is enabling the virtualization capabilities for users of servers fueled by its 'Paxville' Xeon MP processor, which had previously been disabled. BIOS updates are available now from Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

Several IT users at the show discussed the benefits they've gained through virtualization.

"Virtualization has allowed us to decrease our costs, increase our agility, increase time to market for new business applications and make changes more efficiently," said James Harrison, vice president for the Bank of New York's enterprise architecture group.

But even as users touted the benefits of virtualization, most agreed that issues around software licensing and support from ISVs (independent software vendors) for virtual environments still remains a major pain point.

"Right now we handle this on a vendor-by-vendor basis, but what we'd like to see is more of an industry standard model," said Lee Congdon, vice president, corporate technology for Capital One.

"Getting the ISVs' support was a problem and is still a problem. Even if you get a company to agree on a legal basis, getting the support people to support you is a problem," said Jon Stumpf, chief technology officer for American International Group.

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