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

Thin, bony and mean

The OEM Question

As far as we can tell, major OEMs look set to offer, say, one server each with the hypervisor embedded in flash memory. They'll probably do the same with XenSource when its embedded hypervisor is all polished. Dell has vowed to go diskless with its Veso appliance based on ESX 3i, while other vendors have yet to provide much detail on their upcoming hardware.

Microsoft tells us that doing the embedded hypervisor thing is a waste of time and has no plans to decouple its future hypervisor from Windows Server 2008, even though the hypervisor itself will come in at less than 1MB.

So, then, is ESX Server 3i really a big deal?

Well, yes, and curse you for staying so silent.

On the most basic level, VMware can use ESX Server 3i to shut up its loudest critics in the financial markets. The large investors have long wondered if VMware could keep its revenue going in the face of free hypervisor competition from XenSource and Microsoft. VMware is bravely saying that it could care less about the hypervisor's financial value. You give the sucker away and then do your best to sell management software around it. (VMware already makes 80 per cent of its revenue away from direct hypervisor sales.)

Better than that, you remove management basics from the hypervisor and force customers upstream. Gravy!

ESX Server 3i also seems like a big deal because VMware has moved ahead of the competition. The major OEMs have started to standardize on its embedded hypervisor, leaving XenSource to fight for a place at the table and Microsoft to tell everyone how wrong embedded hypervisors are. This reinforces VMware's status as an industry standard.

So, on the one hand, the embedded hypervisor means very little. It's just a slimmer bit of software that fits into the same, basic framework. The server vendors will experiment with how they use the code and the types of systems they ship. We doubt anything too dramatic or VMware-specific will arrive out of this work. And, in the end, you still need to run an operating system with this puppy at some point, which leaves Microsoft in decent shape.

That said, VMware can point to ESX Server 3i as another example of its power and focus. The software maker managed to line up all the major server players around the new code. In addition, it turned out the project in just a few months – something Microsoft can only imagine.

And now, customers will come to think of virtualization software – Vmware in particular – as a standard part of a server. You just turn it on and buy your support contract. Best of all, they're likely to buy even more gear now that the basic management bits and bobs have vanished.

Keep the revenue coming. (And the tips, damnit!) ®

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