New Hardware Optimized for Virtualization

Arthur Cole
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Top 10 Benefits of Virtualization

Virtualization has taken a firm hold at most enterprises these days, but the fact is we've only just begun to unleash the true potential of the technology.

Virtualization is not merely changing the way data environments operate and interact with each other. Increasingly, it is altering the physical landscape as well.

I'm not just talking about consolidation and resource utilization, but the way in which new generations of hardware are hitting the channel optimized for virtual environments - a development that will likely lead to dedicated, all-virtual infrastructure within the data center (dare we call them "silos"?) or fully virtualized data centers themselves.

Exhibit A is the new Bulldozer chip from AMD. As described by InformationWeek's Charles Babcock, the device is almost purpose-built for virtual environments. By integrating two eight-core processors with two integer engines, but only one floating point engine, the device can provide 64 CPUs on a four-socket platform, with each CPU supporting up to 384 GBps of memory. That enables a high number of virtual machines without having to add additional hardware, although acquiring enough memory to push a fully configured machine to its limit could be a financial stretch for some organizations.

Part of this trend can be attributed to the fact that virtualization can often have a detrimental effect on performance when deployed on traditional, non-virtual infrastructure. As The Register's Liam Proven pointed out recently, the performance lag is a lot better than on earlier virtual platforms, but most applications still run slower than their counterparts on native hardware - and the problem gets worse as more virtual machines are added to the host. To date, chip makers had addressed the issue through tools like virtual emulation extensions and virtual indexing, but the hope is that new generations of hardware will provide even more optimal support.

Changes are taking place in storage infrastructure as well. NexGen Storage just introduced the n5 hybrid SAN designed to fit more comfortably in virtualized environments. The hybrid aspect refers to its ability to handle virtual I/O across DRAM, SSD and HDD tiers, while its ability to function across multiple shared workloads and to enable dynamic data management provides a more fluid and adaptable storage environment for virtual infrastructure.

Meanwhile, HP is aiming for more streamlined deployment of targeted applications in virtualized environments through systems like the Enterprise Database Consolidation Appliance. The device is built on a BladeSystem C3000 enclosure in either a half- or full-rack configuration. It comes with four dual-socket ProLiant G7 blades, along with ProCurve switching and P2000 disk arrays in RAID 10 configuration. The device is optimized for SQL Server workloads, essentially providing a building-block approach for rapid deployment and scalability.

It would seem, then, that speed will be the name of the game in physical layer deployments intended to support virtual infrastructure. Getting resources up and running at a moment's notice will be the order of the day for service providers and traditional data centers alike.

At the same time, the need to expand virtual environments to take on a greater and greater share of the overall data load, without impacting performance, should keep hardware vendors from skimping on the details.

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