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Virtual machines come to Opteron, 64-bit Xeon

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VMware - EMC's partitioning division - has announced that its server slicing products will work with AMD's Opteron and Intel's Xeon Extender processors and the 64-bit operating systems available for the chips.

VMware isn't exactly rushing to the 64-bit computing party. The first 64-bit support will arrive "sometime this quarter" via an update for VMware's Workstation product. (Earlier this month, VMware released Version 4.5 of the Workstation product.) The update will allow customers to run 32-bit operating systems on top of a 64-bit host operating system such as SuSE Linux or the much-delayed Windows XP 64-bit.

The Workstation software is the lowest-end product in VMware's line. It is primarily used by developers to test software on different operating systems. It lets a company test numerous applications on a single workstation, which is an obvious cost-saver.

The higher-end GSX and ESX Server products will have 64-bit OS love as well with support rolling out gradually over the next 18 months. GSX Server should see the same support as Workstation sooner rather than later, according to VMware.

"GSX Server shares the same hosted architecture (as Workstation), so providing support for 64-bit hosts for it is an issue of identifying the correct release vehicle more than anything else," said Edouard Bugnion, one of VMware's co-founders and chief architect.

ESX Server, by contrast, does not run on top of a host OS and will likely take more time to engineer for 64-bit computing.

Along with being able to run a 64-bit host operating system, VMware plans to make it possible to run all kinds of 64-bit/32-bit OS combinations. This would include running 64-bit and 32-bit virtual machines alongside each other.

All of this only holds true for Opteron and Xeon Extender. VMware is still "evaluating" the market for Intel's other 64-bit processor - Itanium.

VMware's 18 month timetable for massive 64-bit operating system support makes sense. Companies tend to use VMware's products to consolidate their x86 servers or, as mentioned before, to create a test environment. It will take awhile for 64-bit operating systems from SuSE, Red Hat and Microsoft to make their way into the market. By the time the platforms have matured enough, VMware should be ready with its own product.

As a unit of EMC, VMware performed well in the recent quarter. The unit pulled in close to $40m in software sales and services, which was a revenue record for the software maker.

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