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Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

Everybody is talking up the idea of integrated stacks these days, but some customers just won't listen. They think they can just pick and choose any technology they want, like in the old days.

Take Swedish on-demand movie and TV show streaming service Voddler, which launched last July. The company put together a mix of Windows and Ubuntu servers running without any kind of virtualization on the machines, which currently serve up 698 movies, episodes from 168 TV shows and 188 documentaries, most of which are supported through advertising running in the Voddler client. From July 2009 through January 2010, Voddler grew to 400,000 users and has streamed more than one million videos to customers. This is clearly the kind of fast-growing workload where server virtualization is a must, just to help handle the system and application administration.

Voddler would be a perfect candidate, you might think, for the pre-integrated stacks of servers, storage and management software being peddled by the Acadia partnership of Cisco Systems, EMC and VMware, or perhaps a BladeSystem Matrix stack from HP, or maybe even a CloudBurst virtualized blade setup from IBM. Oracle will no doubt soon have some similar virtualized, integrated stack based on Sun Microsystems iron - the Constellation system of blades, storage, and InfiniBand switches were designed to stream video, you will remember - but Voddler can't wait for the new Oracle sales pitch.

And Voddler apparently can't listen to any sales pitch about integrated stacks - its techies did the old-fashioned thing and cherry-picked technologies they thought would work best for its video-streaming business.

While details are sketchy, Red Hat is crowing like a chanticleer today that Voddler is going to implement virtualization in its data centers using the commercial Linux distro's enterprise-grade implementation of the open source KVM hypervisor, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization or RHEV for short. Voddler is also dumping Ubuntu and Windows for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and will be using Network Satellite to locally manage its infrastructure.

The other interesting bit about Voddler's new video-streaming platform is that it has adopted Cisco's 'California' Unified Computing System blade servers, which sport converged switches for linking servers to each other and the outside world and to storage using the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) protocol.

The UCS machines are also designed to use VMware's ESX Server 4.0 hypervisor and its vSphere virtualization management tools, but Voddler wanted a little more open source action in its software stack. (And perhaps to get the open source community off its back for not distributing some of the code in its Voddler Player through the GPL license as it's supposed to do, considering that it is based on the XBMC player.) The marriage of Cisco's UCS blades and RHEV is odd since Cisco clearly is pushing VMware's vSphere stack. However, Cisco does officially support RHEV, as you can see from this official list of supported software on the machines. Citrix Systems' XenServer, Microsoft's Hyper-V, and Oracle's VM Server are also officially supported on the UCS gear.

Rather than pick EMC's Celerra, Clariion CX4 or Symmetrix V-Max arrays (probably the latter, considering the video-streaming job) that are part of the Acadia partnership's Vblocks, or the NetApp filers that got a belated blessing from a Cisco-VMware-NetApp partnership announced in January, Voddler went off the board and bought IBM's XIV clustered storage and lashed it to the Cisco blades.

The new infrastructure at Voddler is going to be live in the next one to two weeks, and you can bet VMware and EMC will be watching carefully. Like vultures, of course. ®

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