Virtualization briefs: Letters from VMworld

More than 80 vendors gathered in Los Angeles this week to sponsor VMworld 2006, VMware's annual user conference, and made a spate of virtualization announcements in the process.

XenSource to run Windows guests

On Monday, Xen virtualization startup XenSource Inc. announced that its XenEnterprise platform will support Microsoft Windows guests if the underlying physical machine supports Intel-VT or AMD-v chips.

To date, XenEnterprise has only supported select Linux operating systems as guests, e.g., Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 10, as it required the underlying operating system to be fully "paravirtualized," or made virtualization-aware.

But "paravirtualization has always been about future versions of an operating system," said Simon Crosby, XenSource CTO -- for example, Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows Server Longhorn. But when it comes to legacy operating systems, "it was unlikely that vendors would apply modifications, and expecting customers to do it is silly," he said.

In order to run Windows guests, XenSource has had to relax its stance on paravirtualization. Instead, XenSource is promoting what it calls "progressive paravirtualization," said Crosby, whereby a "paravirtualizing" I/O device driver gets installed in a generic unmodified Windows operating system. XenSource installs the device drivers automatically as part of a physical-to-virtual (P2V) process.

The new version of XenEnterprise also bundles a P2V tool for free, Crosby said, although he would not specify from whom. P2V players include Acronis, Leostream, PlateSpin and VMware.

Available in beta now, XenEnterprise with Windows support will be generally available in December for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. Pricing starts at $488 for an annual subscription license per dual socket server; and $750 perpetual license per dual socket server.

Acronis True Image evolves into P2V tool

Virtualization enthusiasts have long used the image-level backup product True Image from Burlington, Mass.-based Acronis Inc. as a de facto physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration tool. Now, Acronis has productized it under the name Full Circle.

Full Circle is based on the same image-based FAST (Fast Accurate Simple Transmission) engine as True Image, but the similarities end there. As the name implies, Full Circle not only does P2V migration, but also the reverse -- virtual-to-physical (V2P) migration.

"It has to be reversible," said Ed Harnish, Acronis vice president of marketing, to allow for experimentation. "There are no clear matrices today that say 'this app works well under virtualization, this one doesn't,'" he said.

Full Circle also supports many combinations of hardware, virtualization platforms and guest operating systems. It supports both 32-bit and 64-bit x86 hardware, virtualization software from VMware, Microsoft, Xen, Parallels and SWSoft, and Windows and Linux guests.

The P2V suite features a wizard-based GUI as well as a command-line interface, through which migrations can be scheduled and automated. Integration with True Image allows IT administrators to convert backup images into virtual machines.

Full Circle will be generally available in December, at which point pricing will be announced.

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