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With VMware not yet shipping the just-announced vSphere 4.0 virtualization stack and its ESX Server 4.0 hypervisor, Surgient 6.1 does not yet support this release. Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor, which is integrated with Windows Server 2008, was supported in Surgient 6.0, and before that, Microsoft's Virtual Server type 2 hypervisor was supported. The Surgient 6.1 release does not support the XenServer hypervisor from Citrix Systems or any of the various offshoots of the open source Xen hypervisor, but Mike Andren, director of product management at Surgient, says that the company is a long-time partner with Citrix and is in discussions about Xen, which is definitely on the roadmap.

With Surgient 6.0, the tool was integrated with Symantec's Altiris systems management tools to allow for the provisioning of physical x64 servers, and with the 6.1 release, the tool is integrated with HP's Server Automation tool (formerly known as Opsware) to do physical server provisioning. Andren says that big companies have invested a lot of money in these tools to do physical server provisioning, and integration makes more sense than starting from scratch to craft its own physical server provisioning features.

The prior release already integrated with HP's Quality Center lifecycle management tools, and the 6.1 release gets integration with IBM's equivalent Rational lifecycle tools. The Surgient 6.1 release now integrates with VMware's vCenter management tool, allowing for VM templates created using vCenter and controlling their deployment to be imported from vCenter. Likewise, VM workflow created by Surgient can be exported to vCenter. Andren says that the company is talking to IBM, BMC, and CA to integrate with their physical server provisioning tools.

The idea is to allow companies to keep doing what they are doing, but use Surgient to allow self-service deployment to schedule virtual machines on the network and to deploy them within the confines and rules of the lifecycle management tools.

While it is perhaps no big deal to create a software image and deploy it to a hypervisor running inside the corporate firewall or out there on clouds like Amazon's EC2, Andren says that one of the key differentiators that separates Surgient from VMware or VMLogix, its two main competitors, is that Surgient's tool can deploy complex, multi-tier networks of virtual or physical machines - or a mix of the two styles provided companies have Altiris or Server Automation installed.

And the tool has dynamic capacity management features that allow for pools of CPU, memory, and disk to be recaptured after VMs and physical servers are quiesced. Moreover, the new release includes partial host pooling, which allows partitions created by ESX Server or Hyper-V hypervisors on a single machine to be put into different capacity pools to be used by workloads assigned by Surgient. The idea is to drive up utilization as high as possible on each physical server.

The new release also has software license tracking, which helps companies to cut back on software licenses. Andren says that many high-end data centers often have between 20 to 30 per cent more software licenses than they actually deploy, just so they don't have to worry about running out of capacity at a critical time. With Surgient, companies will be able to track their licenses and not lock up funds on the actual licenses being deployed. Moreover, they will be able to kick out reports for their software providers to show them how many licenses are running in their shop and how it has changed over time to demonstrate compliance with their licensing contracts.

Perhaps most interestingly, the Surgient 6.1 release has a feature that acts like an air traffic controller, and given a condition that, say, a physical server needs to be taken down for maintenance at a certain time, it can figure out the best way to move workloads off that machine to minimize or eliminate downtime for the applications running on that machine.

Surgient Virtual Automation Platform 6.1 will ship on April 30. An entry setup for testing proof of concept across several hosts and dozens of virtual machines costs from $50,000 to $60,000. Production setups for data centers can run to six or seven figures for Surgient licenses. ®

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