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Interoute sells virtual servers

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European telco and managed services provider Interoute has launched a hosted virtual server service - but unlike smaller hosting companies which use the likes of Virtuozzo to generate virtual webservers, it's using a full VMware ESX set-up.

It allows customers to have a virtual machine (VM) of their own, complete with its own instance of Linux or Windows, plus VMs can be moved from machine to machine if the physical server fails or needs maintenance. They can even be moved to a machine in a data centre in another country, said Sander Chandon, Interoute's hosting product manager.

"We've built VMware hosts in our Amsterdam and Munich data centres, plus we have a demo system in Geneva," he said.

If the physical server crashes, the system will restore the virtual servers from the SAN to spare hardware - although of course this process cannot save and restore the server's active state, so that is lost.

This ability to move VMs around was what attracted Interoute to VMware, said Chandon. He added: "Virtuozzo splits a box up very efficiently, but it can't move virtual machines to another box so easily."

It is possible to convert physical servers to VMware ones, and hosted VMs will be slightly cheaper per month than hosted physical servers, he said.

However, he claimed that the real benefit of the virtual approach is not cost, but reliability and provisioning speed - customers will even be able to buy VMs online.

"We haven't built this just to reduce costs, but also to increase reliability and availability. For example, one of our customers was doing a migration and it was going to take them three weeks just to buy and rack four machines."

Customers can choose what system resources they'd like allocated to their VM, and can also mix and match, for example backing-up physical servers with virtual ones, instead of having secondary hot-standby machines.

"Our customers aren't buying VMs, they're buying a pool of resources. You have a choice - you can either pay a lot for a very fast response, or be more selective about what you need."

According to Chandon, the choice of virtual framework comes down to what you want to achieve. He acknowledged that there is a performance hit from VMware, but said it is "very small, perhaps five to 10 per cent".

He added that with average server utilisation running at 15 per cent, there is still a big advantage to be had from consolidating several lightly-loaded servers onto one machine - even if the process carries an overhead.

"We've had this running for six weeks now and already have 10 customers live." ®

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