HP, Dell and Fujitsu answer VMware's USB stick plea
The 32MB shot heard round the world
In the much-hyped world of server virtualization, even slapping a hypervisor on a USB stick counts as cause for mass celebration.
As evidence, we bring you the joyous shouts of HP, Dell, IBM and Fujitsu Siemens - all of which have firmed their plans to support VMware's trimmed down hypervisor known as ESX Server 3i. Over the next two months, the server vendors will inject USB drives with the 32MB VMware software and pop those USB drives into motherboard slots. All you need to do is go to the web site of your choice, click on 3i and wait for your virtualized server to arrive.
VMware announced ESX Server 3i - aka the Calista Flockhart hypervisor - last Sept. The software is just like VMware's usual ESX Server product except it ships without some bulky, modified Red Hat Enterprise Linux components that functioned as the Service Console. As a result, you end up with a 32MB package instead of a more than 2GB bundle.
Most of the major server vendors celebrated 3i's arrival as ushering in a new era of virtualization. Customers would no longer need to hunt down virtualization software. Instead, every server would ship with the virtualization code running through its innards just waiting to be activated with a license key.
As it turns out, 3i's arrival may or may not be as magical as planned.
The vendors we've talked to have proved rather reluctant to reveal much in the way of specifics where pricing information around their 3i offerings is concerned. So, we're not sure if you're getting the 3i hypervisor for free or if you're just getting to pay to have someone else install a USB stick in your machine.
Let's check out what the vendors are rolling.
HP - reporting for stick duty
HP will go hog wild with ESX Server 3i, planting the software in 10 of its machines by the end of March. We're talking ProLiant ML and DL boxes along with blades. (HP has promised information on the specific machines.)
Hurd's House will let customers order a basic version of 3i pre-installed on the systems and will also give you "the ability to upgrade" to a full-blown version of ESX Infrastructure 3 that includes all of the disaster recovery, clustering and management bits you've come to know and love.
Will HP charge for that base version? And how much more will it charge for full-blown activation? Yes, we'd like to know as well. Apparently, HP's still refining those details.
While proves pretty damn giddy about the USB stick business, it actually thinks that most customers will opt for the full-blown virtualization party that resides on disk.
"That is where we believe customers will be able to extract the most value," an HP rep told us.
Of course, you can order an HP server with VMware on it today, so we're not sure what the fuss is about here.
That said, HP appears ready to impress customers with its virtualization management play. When the embedded 3i ships, HP customers will receive more information about virtual servers via Systems Insight Manager 5.2. You will, for example, receive alerts about physical and virtual system faults in the same place and can use other ProLiant management packages in conjunction with VMotion to shift workloads between physical and virtual systems when a problem occurs.
Dell at the dongle, sir
Dell has a similar attack to HP, although it's running just a tad behind its rival.
HP has promised 10 3i-ready systems by the end of March. Meanwhile, Dell looks to offer a "handful" of 3i-ready PowerEdge systems by mid-April and then more boxes in the coming months. In addition, Dell will start shipping its Veso appliance in mid-April.
The Veso box is a bit of a hoot. The system will run on a pair of four-core Opteron chips and have twice as much memory as Dell's usual two-socket systems. All told, Dell thinks this should be a virtualization dynamo.
Thanks to a tight relationship with VMware, the Veso was once meant to ship last Nov., making Dell the first server vendor to the party with embedded 3i. Both Dell and VMware bragged about this potential firstness. Then, er, AMD wrecked the whole affair by delaying the release of production Opteron chips.
Dell also has a similar management story to HP.
It's working on a utility in conjunction with VMware that will link Dell's OpenManage and VMware's 3i and VirtualCenter software via a CIM management interface. That will arrive by mid-April.
As mentioned, both HP and Dell refused to give us exact pricing with their 3i systems. Based on our conversations, however, it sounds like Dell might try to one up rivals by giving away the base 3i hypervisor that ships in memory.
"What we are going to do is making virtualization party of the value," Rick Becker, a Dell VP, told us. "There will not be an incremental fee as far as deploying the hypervisor onto our servers."
Such a strategy makes the most sense given that you can get various hypervisors at no charge and since Microsoft looks to ship a hypervisor for about $30.
Come April 15, Dell should be close to offering Citrix's XenServer alongside 3i as well. Becker said the Citrix virtualization code would be available "in the same general timeframe" as 3i.
IBM plans to offer a single 3i-ready system at some point, while Sun has so far ignored the embedded hypervisor movement.
Fujitsu Siemens beat its larger rivals to the punch by announcing immediate availability of systems with 3i embedded. "Midrange PRIMERGY RX330 S1 and RX300 S4 servers including the integrated virtualization solution start shipping today, with prices starting at EUR 2,300," we were told.
The "I" is for the obvious
It's quite something to watch most of the major server vendors jump for VMware. The software maker readies a thin hypervisor, and everyone arms their USB sticks like obedient virtualization soldiers.
And why not?
You're not getting a revolution here, but you're getting a time saver.
Customers will soon be able to go to web sites and pick from VMware, Citrix, SWsoft and Microsoft hypervisors on their systems. The will pay nothing or very little for the privilege. Then they can boot right into a virtualized state, saving some time and installation hassle. In addition, all of their servers will be ready for full-blown virtualization should the need occur. Just one click with a mouse, and you're there.
"I think it will be great for customers," VMware CEO Diane Greene told us. "They will get their servers with all of this tested and certified. Then, you can boot those servers and have them plug-and-play into an existing virtualized environment." ®