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VMware prepping for greater hardware compatibility

VMware is prepping a new hardware certification program that should increase the number of hardware devices supported on ESX.

VMware is preparing to roll out a new hardware certification program that should result in a greater variety of devices on VMware's hardware compatibility list (HCL).

In an interview at the IDC Virtualization Forum in New York City yesterday, Parag Patel, VMware senior director of ecosystems alliances, told the program will have hardware vendors "self-certify," instead of having VMware certify the hardware for them.

"Once you get a lot of market share, a lot of vendors want to be on your support matrix. We're delivering a self-service model because if we had to do it all ourselves, we wouldn't be able to," Patel said.

The self-certification program would rely on a standardized toolset and test routines. Hardware vendors interested in getting on VMware's support matrix would take their equipment to a VMware-certified test lab, and run VMware virtualization on their hardware devices.

If the vendor passes the test, hardware will be placed on the HCL; if not, VMware will work with the vendor to rectify the problem, Patel said.

A common sticking point with VMware ESX, the company's bare-metal hypervisor, is that it supports a relatively limited number of hardware devices. VMware Server, the free version, in fact, supports a far greater breadth of hardware, as it piggybacks on the hardware compatibility lists of Microsoft Windows Server and Linux, the underlying host operating systems.

The lack of certification programs has resulted in some vendors supporting hardware configurations that VMware does not recognize, Patel said. Storage virtualization vendor DataCore, for example, supports VMware environments, even though VMware hasn't yet placed DataCore on its HCL.

Patel said that this situation is not unlike where virtualization shops were a few years ago – demanding letters of support from their application vendors. "Virtualization really changed the way you use software and the way you license it, and the software companies really struggled to support that." Today, most independent software vendors support their applications running in a virtual machine, and Patel expects that hardware vendors will follow suit.

Patel spoke of a VMware partner that alerted the company about a large request-for-proposal (RFP) out on the street last fall that eliminated any vendor that did not support VMware. "They said to us, 'VMware is a checkbox item.'"

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Alex Barrett, News Director

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