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It's upgrade time for VMware's Lab Manager package.

The soon-to-IPO company this week pumped out Version 2.5 of its test and development product. The new code includes support for more storage systems, more OSes and more automation. It's a more story likely to please companies struggling with a mess of hardware in their test and dev setups.

Released at the end of last year, Lab Manager makes the most of VMware's virtualization philosophy. It lets customers create numerous virtual server configurations on a single physical server, lessening the need for separate physical machines for test and dev tasks. VMware acquired the Lab Manager technology when it bought Akimbi last June.

As VMware tells it, "(Lab Manager) uses a shared pool of server, networking and other resources and allocates them as needed, and it provides local or remote users with a self-service portal that enables on-demand access to a shared library of complex multi-machine configurations.

"It is the only virtual lab automation system that offers 'fenced deployment,' which enables simultaneous use of library configurations by multiple users, as well as the ability to capture complex system configurations in a live state. A unique delta-tree image library management feature enables large image libraries to be maintained without data redundancy, reducing disk storage requirements compared to other lab management systems."

With Version 2.5, you're going to find iSCSI and NFS support that complements existing Fibre Channel storage support. So, you can test a broader array of, well, storage arrays.

You'll also find support for 64-bit and Virtual SMP guest operating systems. What's more, VMware has added support for Solaris x86 and shipped "experimental support" for virtual machines running Windows Vista, if you're feeling brave.

The fresh release brings some automation tools too, including a policy manager for flushing unused virtual machines.

VMware is very proud of the fact that partners have decided to join in on the Lab Manager parade. For example, Borland plans to weave is SilkCentral Test Manager 2007 user interface into Lab Manager, while Genilogix was a beta version of a plug-in that ties HP Quality Center to VMware's code.

The Lab Manager software starts at $15,000, although you have to shell out $1,000 per two-socket server that needs managing, so you're looking at $16,000 to get going. That, of course, assumes that you've already purchased VMware's flagship Infrastructure 3 software.

VMware also offers a bundle with Lab Manager, 5 agents for two-socket boxes and 10 copies of VMware workstation at a discount. ®

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