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Start-up turns VMware, Xen and MS hetero

Cassatt puts the X in cross virtualization

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Server management start-up Cassatt continues to build out its product portfolio at pace, moving this week into the virtual operating system arena. Cassatt has started shipping a package that can install and control virtual OSes from the likes of VMware, XenSource and Microsoft.

The XVM - or cross-virtualization manager - serves as the latest extension to Cassatt's core Collage server management system. In virtualization speak, Collage creates the fabled "pool of processors" that can fire up, move and power down applications automatically. The XVM package performs similar functions but does so for individual virtual machines.

XVM is Cassatt's second add-on package, following the release last month of the the Web Automation Module for handling J2EE application servers and Java-based apps.

The whole virtualizaton market makes us nervous as companies rarely come close to delivering on what they promise. Most server virtualization start-ups disappear before selling a single working package.

Cassatt, however, seems pretty close to being the real deal. Last week, we checked out Collage, WAM and XVM in action at the company's San Jose headquarters. In impressive fashion, the products recovered from server failures to reinstall software on new systems. In addition, Collage and friends managed to balance applications across all the hardware, placing high priority software on higher-end gear and working in tandem with Oracle RAC, for example, to keep running when a cluster node drops.

Beyond that, Cassatt gives you a picture of all the OSes, application servers, applications and virtual machines you have running in a data center. It can also deliver reports on what software packages are used across the data center and when they're launched or accessed. This seems like a pretty solid tool for getting a handle on your software licensing situation.

The XVM product fits right into this agenda and offers customers something you won't find from the virtual OS guys themselves, which is the ability to run and manage different virtual server products from one spot.

VMware, for example, has the most complete virtual server lineup today with its core GSX and ESX Server products and then complementing management packages. All of the products, however, are clearly tuned for a VMware-only shop, running Windows and Linux servers.

Meanwhile, neither Microsoft nor XenSource offer much in the way of management packages at all and are again geared only for their core products.

With XVM, you'll be able to install, move and delete virtual machines created by all these vendors. In addition, Collage will handle failures of both physical and virtual servers automatically and start up new systems as needed, which is something few of the virtual server vendors can match right now.

"Just as data centers aren't all just Linux, Unix or Windows, they won't all be just VMware, Microsoft and Xen," said Rich Green, a former Sun Microsystems exec and now EVP at Cassatt. "We have focused on solving the management and diversity problems for this virtual world."

Like a BEA or Veritas before it, Cassatt pitches itself as a type of neutral party in the data center. It will support Linux, Windows and Solaris boxes and as many additional packages as possible. In addition, it doesn't want to unseat VMware or XenSource but rather help them out.

This pitch sounds fine and seems to be backed up by Cassatt's products. We, however, continue to have concerns about the poor customers out there who have to buy yet another management package and add more software costs to their data centers.

Cassatt tells us that it can boost server utilization, which should lower software licensing costs for things such as BEA and WebSphere in the long run. But to get to that point, you'll have to listen to pitches from the likes of IBM, Sun, HP, Symantec, EMC, Microsoft and others and then try and decide just how well Cassatt fits into all this.

About a dozen companies so far - a couple of them very large - have bought into the Cassatt concept. And, in fact, we'll be detailing Cassatt's strategy more on Friday in an interview with the company's CEO and BEA co-founder Bill Coleman where he'll discuss what types of companies have picked up the code.

In the meantime, you can find the new XVM product here. You might be underwhelmed to discover that it only works with VMware for the moment. Xen support will come in June, and Microsoft Virtual Server support will follow in the second half of the year. The XVM product costs $1,250 per server, regardless of the number of processors. ®

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