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VMware revs ESX to 3.0.1

Four months after launching VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3), the company announced the first major revision to the enterprise virtualization platform.

VMware announced today the first upgrade to the VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) platform it originally launched in June, bumping up ESX from 3.0 to 3.0.1 and VirtualCenter 2.0 to 2.0.1. Existing ESX customers should be able to download the revision from the VMware Web site by week's end.

ESX 3.0.1 is no ordinary point release. Included in the revision is support for 64-bit operating systems, a non-disruptive upgrade utility and a VMware product first – foreign language localization.

ESX's newfound 64-bit operating system support is a result of VMware's efforts "to create a greater breadth of workload support," says Karthik Rau, senior director of infrastructure products. Now, ESX users can create virtual machines (VMs) running 64-bit editions of Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and Sun Solaris for x86 -- "basically, all the OSes we support today, but in their 64-bit versions," explained Rau.

Sixty-four bit applications, meanwhile, won't start to appear in earnest until next year, said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT Inc., a research firm in Hayward, Calif. He took this VMware announcement, therefore, as further proof of "increasing developer interest in 64-bit -- it's getting more mature." Solaris 64-bit support also points to the developing closeness between Sun and VMware, despite the fact that their relationship is relatively new.

Likewise, localization in Japanese and German languages show that the virtualization craze is by no means limited to North America. "This is evidence of traction overseas," King said. The localized versions should be available within a couple of weeks.

But VMware aficionados will perhaps be most pleased with the new migration utility. Based on VMotion, the tool allows pre-existing ESX shops to move VMs running on a 2.x host directly to an ESX 3.0.1 host, without taking it down.

Rumors of this migration utility surfaced this summer on VMware VMTN message boards (see VMware preps less painful ESX upgrades), but observers put the release date later in the year. Initial speculation, however, about how 'Dmotion' -- its internal code name -- works appear to have been spot on: "Basically, we create a shadow VM on the target machine and stream over the content from the source to the target," said Rau. In the meantime, she said, "we keep a map of whatever is running, suspend the VM [to apply the changes], then resume."

Pund-IT's King noted that the VMware Converter utility marks a change in the way VMware does business. "In the past, the conversion process was typically something that VMware offered as a service," he said. By offering this tool, VMware is saying that either "customers have become so comfortable with VMware products that they are willing to take a complex process and do it themselves," or that "demand for the software may have been greater than demand for the service." Either way, "it's good news for the customers," King said.

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