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Unisys to craft its own X64 server virtualization

Why not? Everybody's doing it

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Unisys says it will create its own brand of server virtualization on the Xeon Monster server it launched this week with partner NEC as well as supporting hypervisors from Microsoft and VMware.

The mainframe and X64 server maker expects to deliver this virtualization in early 2009.

The Unisys ES7000 Model 7600R server announced this week is based on Intel's "Dunnington" quad-core and hex-core Xeon 7400 series processors, and offers from 4 to 16 processor sockets and up to 96 processor cores in a single system image.

Like other ES7000 servers that preceded the Xeon Monster, as the co-developed box is called, the 7600R has a number of different partitioning technologies.

First, the ES7000s have hardware partitions that can isolate partitions at the system board level. Each system board, which is sometimes called a cell (Unisys calls its special variant of SMP in the ES7000s Cellular MultiProcessing, in fact), can be equipped with a hardware partition, or a hardware partition can span multiple cell boards (which, in the case of the 7600R, have four processor sockets). The hardware partitioning is done manually at the moment, but early next year Unisys will add features that allow it to be controlled through scripts.

The 7600R also offers support for the dynamic partitioning feature of Windows Server 2008 which was co-developed by Microsoft and NEC, and which Unisys is getting by virtue of its own partnership with NEC. This dynamic partitioning allows a Windows partition to have processors, memory, and I/O on the cell boards to be added to a partition without having to shut the machine down or restarting Windows instances.

The 7600R is also certified, of course, to support the VMware ESX Server 3.5 virtual machine hypervisor for carving up the server into sub-processor VMs, and customers can also use Microsoft's Hyper-V for Windows Server 2008 or the integrated Xen hypervisor inside Red Hat's Enterprise Linux Advanced Platform 5.2 or Novell's Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP2 to similarly carve up the box.

What's cooking?

Given all this, you might be wondering why Unisys is working on its own software-level partitioning technology for the ES7000 line. But, according to Colin Lacey, vice president of systems and storage for the Systems and Technology group at Unisys, this is indeed what Unisys is planning to do.

The details are a bit sketchy at the moment, but Lacey says that the company is working on its own of stack of virtualization software, which is probably based on its mainframe partitioning but Lacey didn't want to say anything more about the details. It is also possible that Unisys is cooking up its own variant of a Xen hypervisor.

In any event, this unnamed software partitioning technology will allow users of the 7600R server to create partitions that scale down to the single processor core and that carve up the appropriate memory and I/O out of the system to support these partitions. Presumably, this partitioning will support Windows and Linux, and presumably it will not just be limited to the 7600R server, but also be deployable on the full expanse of the Unisys X64 server line. When pressed for a delivery date, Lacey said Unisys was shooting for the second quarter of 2009.

In addition to the new Dunnington server and the hints about its software partitioning project this week, Unisys also announced some systems management software and related services.

The company's uAdapt provisioning software, which was announced earlier this year on ES7000 rack servers now comes in a blade edition that works on the rebadged Dell boxes that Unisys is peddling. (The software allows administrators to wipe out and change the personality of a server in around 5 minutes, according to Unisys, and the real question most of us have is will it work on mothers-in-law?)

Unisys is also launching a server lifecycle management suite called uProvision, based on code licensed from BladeLogic (now part of BMC software). This software does patch management and access control for physical and virtual servers.

uGovern

Jody Little, vice president of solutions and services at Unisys, says that the coders at the company are working on an uber-management tool called uGovern, which will take a look at the people and IT policies set up by managers, both in the business units and in the data centers, to orchestrate how all of this hardware and software changes over time.

On the services front, Unisys has three new services, all of which are part of its Real-Time Infrastructure repositioning of the company, which really means resell other people's servers as well as Unisys mainframes and concentrate on services and software sales that help make IT flexible instead of brittle. Good luck on that one.

These include a disaster recovery planning service, which costs between $75,000 and $90,000; a backup modernization service, which costs $50,000; and a data protection optimization service, which costs $60,000. These services are just audits of existing facilities and practices and advice on how to change them; implementation services for the advice Unisys gives are extra.

You can see why Unisys wants to focus on services, eh? ®

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