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VMware's 'Calista Flockhart' hypervisor may or may not change the world

Thin, bony and mean

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VMworld This piece on VMware's new ESX 3i hypervisor arrives with great sadness. How – we wonder – could our dear readers at VMware, IBM, HP, Dell, Sun Microsystems and others have kept this technology a secret? Why did we get little more than hints here and there?

We can hear it now.

"Play your violin somewhere else, hack. Type something useful instead of whining."

Such a position would be acceptable if ESX 3i wasn't a big deal.

Technically speaking, the software really isn't much to look at – in fact, it's a lot less to look at. Today's ESX Server install eats through more than 2GB because VMware includes a bulky Service Console with its hypervisor. That Service Console is really a modified version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and handles a wide variety of management tasks.

With ESX Server 3i, announced this week, VMware throws out the Service Console in favor of just the 32MB hypervisor. The new version of ESX Server will ship later this year and work with VMware's existing management packages. In addition, it will ship pre-loaded in the flash memory of servers from the likes of Dell, IBM, HP and Fujistu-Siemens. (Tsk, tsk, readers. Tsk, tsk.)

By embedding the hypervisor into server memory, VMware and friends can eliminate much of the initial, manual configuration work. In addition, they're able – potentially – to improve security by minimizing the state of the launch system and keeping it cordoned off from writable disk.

Olivier Cremel, an engineer at VMware, characterized the construction of ESX Server 3i – in alpha since April, tsk – as "quite easy."

VMware removed its own agents from the Service Console, translated them and ported them to run as native applications on the vmkernel. It also crafted a new CIM (Common Information Model) interface for third party agents, giving them access to information on things such as fan speed or component temperatures.

In addition, VMware introduced a Direct Control User Interface (DCUI), which is a text-based interface that looks a heck of a lot like a BIOS. "This console is intended for very limited configuration of a machine in case you do not like the default settings or if you have some troubleshooting you need to do," Cremel said here at the VMworld conference, during a session.

So, really, you're meant to become more dependent on VMware's other, for profit management software.

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