What do you do when you're a small company looking to grab a piece of a fast-growing market that's already pulled in some well-healed competition? You partner with someone who's even more well-heeled.
In the case of Virtual Iron, that turns out to be several someones. The company has teamed up with IBM and HP to bundle its Xen-based Extended Enterprise Edition into select servers from the company's enterprise lines. The system will be made available on IBM's System x 3500, 3550 and 3655 servers, while HP will load it onto the ProLiant DL380 and DL385 rack-mount systems, as well as the BladeSystem c300 line.
While both Xen and VMware also have OEM deals with leading hardware vendors, Virtual Iron appears to have the smaller enterprise in mind, which makes sense considering the headway VMware in particular has already made in the large enterprise market. The System x brings that line's dual- and quad-core designs into the mix, plus the I/O advantages of the front-side bus -- all for a starting cost of about $13,000. The HP DL package, meanwhile, starts at about $10,500, while the BladeSystem opens at a little over $33,000.
Add to that the fact that the Virtual Iron system is based on the open-source Xen hypervisor, and it makes an attractive option for smaller firms looking to extend their hardware capabilities but who may not need all of the advanced features found on VMware just yet.
Virtual Iron is also making headway on the chip level. The company recently underwent performance testing under Intel's FlexPriority extension to the quad-core Xeon 7300, which seeks to foster more efficient Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) on 32-bit guest OS's. The system boosted VI performance by 35 percent and boot time by 40 percent using Windows Server 2000 and 2003 SP1.
Despite all of these moves, Virtual Iron still has a tough road to travel as the virtualization space generates more and more players. Start-up Qumranet has drawn a fair amount of attention with its open-source KVM (Kernal-based Virtual Machine) that has been adopted into the Linux kernel on several leading distributions like Fedora and Ubuntu.
Virtual Iron has shown that it has marketing savvy by aligning itself with the main hardware vendors. Now it needs to show technical savvy by outclassing its rivals in the datacenter.