PAN Manager virtualization software extends beyond hypervisor-based virtualization and virtualizes I/O infrastructure, including Ethernet network interface cards, Fibre Channel, host bus adapters (HBAs), and Ethernet and Fibre Channel switches.
In the physical world, I/O consists of dedicated connections to devices, such as disks and networks. I/O virtualization abstracts that connectivity, so the server is no longer statically configured to specific I/O wiring, according to Peter Manca, chief technology officer at Marlboro, Mass.-based Egenera.
The benefits of virtualizing I/O are easy change management and server repurposing, thusavoiding having to add new hardware, which can get expensive, said Manca.
By reselling PAN Manager software, Dell can better compete with other server vendors that have virtualization management tools, such as Hewlett Packard Co. and its Virtual Connect software.
HP's Virtual Connect pools and abstracts the local area network and storage area network (SAN) connections to servers and virtual machines (VMs) in HP's HP BladeSystem. Comparatively, PAN Manager creates pools of compute, storage and network resources that can be allocated as needed. It is not tied to a specific OS or application and can manage both physical and virtual servers in the same pane of glass, Manca said.
"In today's market, Dell can compete very effectively with other vendors on simple server virtualization and SANs. But what it lacks is a management tool that can pull everything together into an entirely virtualized datacenter. That is where PAN Manager comes into play," Jim Burton blogged an enterprise server analyst at Ideas International. "With PAN Manager, Dell leaps over many of its competitors with the ability to create the virtualized data center of the future today using inexpensive industry-standard components."
Until November 2007, PAN software was available only on Egenera's BladeFrame when the company opened it up to third-party hardware. Fujitsu Siemens Computers was the first official OEM, and Egenera PAN Manager integrated software into its Primergy server line FlexFrame as part of the infrastructure in November.
"We have been selling an integrated hardware and software offering for many years, and customers have shown interest in running PAN manager on other platforms in their data centers, so it was a natural step," said Susan Davis, vice president of marketing for Egenera.
Gartner Inc. analyst John Enck said PAN Manager is the gem of the Egenera BladeFrame package, and "by partnering with the mainstream vendors, Egenera can continue to derive value from its "secret sauce."
James Staten, a principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. agreed that opening PAN Manager to additional vendors is a good move.
"It should be a boon for [Egenera's] existing and future customers, as it allows them to extend the well-established and well-liked PAN Manager across their non-Egenera servers in their environment," Staten said. "As a purely standalone tool for virtualization management, it's another option that users can consider for virtualization management."
Egenera's PAN Manager supports Citrix Systems Inc.'s Citrix XenServer and VMware Inc.'s virtual machines and the company plans to support Microsoft's virtualization technology, Hyper-V, when it becomes available later this year, Manca said.
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