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Topspin hopes to hit winner with VFrame

Server virtualization, anyone?

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Topspin Communications has boosted the software part of its product lineup with the release last week of the VFrame suite.

Topspin pretty much defines the term virtualization start-up. It's best known for switching products that connect server and storage systems regardless of who makes the hardware. In the past, Topspin offered a basic software package for making this hardware magic happen, but now with VFrame it hopes to offer customers much more complex management tools.

"Vframe is basically the fourth building block that we offer to build a utility data center out of whatever servers the customer wants," said Stu Aaron, vice president of marketing at Topspin.

The other three "building blocks" include the Infiniband-based switch, software for pairing servers and storage systems and software for rolling out applications and/or operating systems on the servers. With VFrame, customers will now get their hands on a new class of policy-based management software that can work on its own or tie into other management software from vendors such as IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems.

An administrator could use VFrame, for example, to deal with a sudden spike in traffic on a Web server. The admin could set up a policy to automatically provision a new Web server if the number of requests passed a certain threshold.

"Our software makes it possible to bring up a server with a specific type of CPU and memory and boot it over the network," Aaron said. "Then we can map that server to the network and configure it with the storage network."

Similarly, the software could be used to reconfigure servers to handle different tasks, depending on the time of the day. A customer could run payroll at night and serve up applications during the day.

A number of companies both large and small claim to be able to similar things with their own fancy, shmancy software. Veritas, for example, presented a compelling roadmap last week for its clustering code.

Topspin, however, insists that it does not want to be anything close to a major data center software provider. It simply wants to make sure its switches have the software needed to fit in with more complex management architectures sold by server, storage and software vendors.

With that in mind, Topspin has also kicked off a VFrame developers program. This is an effort to encourage ISVs to test and certify their software with Topspin's. Current members of the program include Oracle, VMware/EMC, Opsware and Platform Computing.

It's hard to gauge how popular the Topspin gear has been. The company did announce a customer win with the Burlington Coat Factory - a company that seems to pop up in customer win press releases with alarming frequency. In addition, Topspin has teamed with Dell, IBM and Sun on various fronts.

If anyone out there has given the Topspin kit a good run, let us know. No, that doesn't include you, Stu.

The VFrame software starts at $10,000 for up to 25 servers. ®

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