Virtual Iron's v4 takes on VMware, XenSource

With version 4 of its virtualization platform, Virtual Iron is inching closer to enterprise readiness.

Virtual Iron Software Inc. of Lowell, Mass., has upped the revision number of its eponymous virtualization platform to version 4. The latest version builds on the 64-bit Xen 3.1 open source code from XenSource Inc.., integrating support for Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 10 kernel and drivers, offering a new management console, and adding new physical-to-virtual (P2V) and virtual-to-virtual (V2V) migration capabilities.

For more on Virtual Iron:
Virtual Iron adds Xen; aims for rival VMware

Hosting providers bypass VMware, Xen for Virtual Iron

Virtual Iron supports iSCI with virtualization suite
Still going after the competition
The new Virtual Iron platform continues to close the gap with VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3, said Mike Grandinetti, Virtual Iron chief marketing officer, and compares quite favorably with another Xen-based virtualization platform, XenSource's XenEnterprise v4, recently acquired by Citrix Systems Inc. "Virtual Iron continues to ship a vastly superior product [compared with XenEnterprise]," he said, adding that prior to the Citrix acquisition, Virtual Iron rarely saw XenEnterprise in any deals. "Our competition with them has been largely around mindshare, not customers," Grandinetti said.

[Virtual Iron] has gotten back in sync with the open source community.
Philipp Huber,
CTOXCalibre Communications Ltd.
As far as new features in Virtual Iron, Grandinetti cited the integration of Novell SLES 10 as particularly important. With it, Virtual Iron now uses the SLES kernel and drivers in its service console, or dom0 in Xen-speak. "What customers have been telling us is that they feel more comfortable if all the hardware in their infrastructure is certified and supported by a major vendor," he said. "People in IT departments really don't have a sense of humor about this; their jobs depend on it."

XCalibre Communications Ltd. in the U.K. has used Virtual Iron as the basis of its FlexiScale hosted on-demand computing offering and was pleased with the company's move to SUSE. "SUSE is a good kernel," said Philipp Huber, the company's CTO, and down the road, Novell's proximity to Microsoft may help ensure good performance in running Microsoft virtual machines. "We view it as fantastic news, even if it cost them some money," he said.

Virtual Iron returns to the open source fold?
Huber is also pleased that Virtual Iron has moved to the Xen 3.1 hypervisor and that it's "gotten back in sync with the open source community." Some of the technical benefits Virtual Iron derives from the new hypervisor include more supported operating system as well as better CPU and memory management.

With version 4, Virtual Iron now offers a new bundle called the Extended Enterprise Edition (EEE), which includes the hypervisor as well the full complement of management utilities (LiveMigrate, akin to VMware VMotion; LiveRecovery, akin to VMware HA; and LiveCapacity, analogous to VMware DRS), plus up to six P2V or V2V conversions using PlateSpin PowerConvert. Virtual Iron 4 EEE is priced at $799 per socket.

But Chris Wolf, senior analyst at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group, warned would-be Virtual Iron customers that the product still has some kinks to iron out. "They still have some work to do to be enterprise-ready," he said, citing the lack of certification and support from major backup software vendors as "one of the hurdles they have to overcome." VMware, he noted, faced the same challenge before it increased its footprint in the market.

All in all, though, Virtual Iron "has a one of the best cluster models around, and really good live migration," Wolf said. "It's a really good value for the features that you get."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director.

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