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Hitachi injects hypervisor into Xeon blade

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IDF Hitachi will continue carving out its own place in the virtualization market with a Xeon-based blade server that includes a built-in hypervisor.

In the first quarter of next year, Hitachi America – a subsidiary of the big guy – will ship a Xeon version of the BladeSymphony 1000 system outfitted with homegrown Virtage technology. Virtage stands as Hitachi's firmware-based hypervisor that has been available with the Itanium-based version of BladeSymphony since last November. The pre-loaded hypervisor gives Hitachi a unique attack in the server game with the company claiming performance and security leads over rivals with the technology.

Built-in hypervisors have suddenly become all the rage. VMware and XenSource have revealed plans to work with OEMs on embedded hypervisors that pop into the flash memory of servers. Hitachi, however, thinks it's creating a much tighter bond between hardware and the hypervisor with its Virtage approach.

"All they are doing with the embedded hypervisor is allowing customers to boot from flash memory," said Steve Campbell, a VP at Hitachi.

With Virtage, Hitachi loads its own hypervisor into the firmware of the service processor found on its blade server chassis. This lets Hitachi's software span all of the blades slotted into the chassis. In addition, it gives Hitachi a chance to reach deep into the server components, controlling things such as physical I/O interfaces.

Overall, Virtage should improve the performance of server virtualization since the hypervisor is running in hardware, although Hitachi has yet to release any metrics to back the merits of its implementation. In addition, its systems should be more resistant to security breaches than standard x86 gear, since the hypervisor is cordoned off from attackers. Lastly, the technology will work with standard versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 – no special drivers required.

Hitachi paints the Virtage play as a reflection of its mainframe heritage. Virtualization is old hat for the mainframe set, and Hitachi is simply doing the right thing by giving customers access to this type of technology in the x86 market.

Virtage will ship inside all of the future Xeon-based BladeSymphony 1000 systems, and customers can opt to turn it on for a support cost that runs less than five per cent of the total hardware price. ®

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