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VSphere 5, Xen top list of biggest server virtualization news stories

Part two of our top 10 server virtualization news stories of 2011 covers the release of VMware vSphere 5, the vSphere 5 licensing controversy and Linux support for Xen.

Go back to part one of the top 10 server virtualization news stories of 2011.

5. Hyper-V 3.0 anticipation grows

Microsoft gave a brief preview of its next server virtualization platform at July’s Worldwide Partner Conference, then gave a more in-depth Hyper-V 3.0 sneak peek at September’s Build show. Hyper-V 3.0 will feature several improvements around scalability and live migration, plus a new extensible virtual switch that should open the door to advanced networking features. The improvements will be important for Microsoft, whose features still lag behind VMware’s.

Hyper-V 3.0 will be available as part of Windows Server 8 and, for the first time, as a client hypervisor in the Windows 8 desktop operating system. Windows Server 8 and Windows Server are scheduled to be released sometime next year.

4. The rise of Cisco UCS

Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS), one of several converged infrastructure products on the server virtualization market, had a breakout year in 2011. The results of TechTarget’s Virtualization Decisions 2011 Purchasing Intentions Survey showed Cisco UCS gaining steam among virtualization pros. Nearly 20% of respondents said UCS would be their server platform of choice in the coming year, up from just 12% in 2010’s survey. UCS customers attributed the increase to Cisco’s close relationship with VMware and its virtualization-friendly features, such as extended memory.

3. Xen gets Linux kernel support

The Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) is the hypervisor du jour in the open source community, but old stalwart Xen got a boost this year. Xen finally received Linux kernel acceptance in June, putting it on par with KVM, which has been part of the Linux kernel for more than four years. Unfortunately, the move may have come too late for Xen; Red Hat eliminated Xen support in its new operating system last year, and some users said KVM’s technology has surpassed Xen’s.

2. The vSphere 5 cat gets out of the bag… twice

The July launch of VMware vSphere 5 was virtualization’s worst-kept secret in 2011. VMware previewed vSphere 5 at its Partner Exchange conference in February, and more vSphere 5 details leaked on a Turkish Web forum in April. In vSphere 5, VMware focused on scalability, adding support for virtual machines (VMs) with up to 1 TB of RAM and 32 virtual CPUs. Other new features included Storage Distributed Resource Scheduler, which automates storage load balancing, and vSphere Replication, which lets users move VMs among different types of storage. VMware officially released vSphere 5 at the end of August.

1. VMware vSphere 5 licensing controversy

In the immediate aftermath of the vSphere 5 launch, people weren’t talking about its new features. They were focused on the new vSphere 5 licensing model, which charged customers based on the amount of virtual RAM (vRAM) assigned per CPU -- a major shift from the old model, which was based on physical CPUs and physical RAM. Users feared the new licensing would increase their costs and reduce their flexibility, and VMware faced a huge backlash in the virtualization community.

When customers weren’t voicing their displeasure, they were busy trying to find creative ways to save on vSphere 5 licenses. Some said they’d pay more attention to memory allocation, and others planned to scale back their use of virtualization altogether.

After three weeks of bad publicity, VMware blinked. The vRAM-based model remained, but the company increased the vRAM limits per physical CPU, to more accurately reflect how customers assign memory. The controversy died down, but VMware hasn’t ruled out additional licensing changes in the future.

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