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Manchester switch vendor gets $16m funding

Virtualisation startup lands C-round gold

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Virtensys, the maker of I/O virtualising PCIe switches, has landed $16m (£9.7m)of C-round funding.

VirtenSys was founded in December 2005, as a fabless semi-conductor company, with many people in its team of developers coming from Xyratex's Integrated System Division. It is based in Manchester, UK, and has offices in Beaverton, Oregon.

It received $12m of A-round funding in October 2006, and another $12m of B-round money in January last year. Total funding now stands at $40m and the company has not said what it will do with the cash. Continuing development work is a certainty, though, and it is likely that it will build out a sales and marketing function.

VirtenSys' IOV products extend a server's PCIe bus to switches that share I/O ports between servers, typically blade servers, and so provide, for example, an external storage array that looks like virtual direct-attached storage (DAS) to the servers. VirtenSys says its I/O virtualisation technology complements server virtualisation and storage virtualisation.

The IOV switches support Ethernet, SAS/SATA and Fibre Channel, providing servers with connectivity to local area networks (LAN), and storage infrastructures, including DAS and storage area networks (SAN). They create virtualised I/O clouds where servers’ I/O resources are pooled, consolidated, and dynamically allocated on demand based on application needs.

VirtenSys reckons its switches, by getting rid of replicated server adapters and individual DAS, reduce data centre operational expense and complexity, and can improve I/O utilisation to greater than 80 per cent. It says they also enhance throughput, halve equipment cost and reduce I/O power consumption by more than 60 per cent. Good news all round, then.

At the same time as FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) is helping to converge data centre networking onto the single Ethernet platform, VirtenSys is extending the PCIe bus outside servers.

A logical development here would be for the IOV switch technology to support FCoE, so that VirtenSys blade server edge networking could be based on its PCIe cloud interfacing to the data centre's general Ethernet cloud in the future. It will seem quite simple in outline, but there will be a heck of a lot of complexity embedded in silicon and software underneath the smooth and near-seamless virtualised and converged networking.

Another development could be the addition of VirtenSys PCIe technology to storage array controllers. Those controllers, if using X86 technology, would have a PCIe bus anyway, surely, and we would then have an end-to-end PCI-e link from servers to external storage array with no need for iSCSI or Fibre Channel at all. Somehow, somewhere, SAN zoning and other management functions would have to be carried out, but a clever and virtualising storage array controller, HDS USP-style, could do that.

All the existing VirtenSys investors contributed cash. Ahmet Houssein, VirtenSys president and CEO, said: “This funding round follows on the heel of successes at multiple server OEM customers and channel partners." He reckons that it helps prove the point that the company's: "I/O virtualisation products (are) the industry’s best price/performance and lowest energy-usage solutions for the I/O bottleneck in data centres.” But then, he would. ®

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