Top server and networking vendors are falling over themselves to get in on the new thin version of VMware's ESX server, a trend that should rapidly drive down the cost of virtualization to make it available on even the most entry-level systems.
The past week saw deals cut with everyone from HP and IBM to Neterion and Emulex for the ESX 3i, the 32 MB version of the normally 2 GB ESX hypervisor that is being prepped for USB drives and, ultimately, board-level integration.
Each of the server vendors is planning to include 3i on their most popular models, with some forging tight links with their internal management and automation stacks. HP, for instance, is planning to launch 3i on 10 of its ProLiant models with full support for the HP System Insight Manager and the HP Insight Control Environment. The intent is to offer users the ability to boot up VMs just minutes after powering up the server.
Also lining up for the 3i are Dell, HP and Fujitsu, with word that a deal with Sun is nearing completion.
A key component in VMware's strategy is the inclusion of evaluation software for the company's VI3 suite of products, which opens up the possibility of fully managed virtual data centers. The suite provides advanced management features like automatic load balancing, VM migration and power management and lays the groundwork for extending virtualization to other areas of the enterprise, like the desktop.
Of course, what good are more servers if they still communicate with the network through narrow data paths? But VMware looks to have that covered through deals with HBA vendors Neterion and Emulex. The 3i includes native drivers for the 10 GbE Neterion Xframe, and provides full integration with Emulex' LightPulse HBA management suite that provides tools like remote and local management, boot capability directly from a SAN and automated driver configuration.
The ESX 3i solves a number of challenges for VMware. First, it opens up the vast market of small to medium-sized enterprises just as virtualization is gaining steam in the higher-end markets. Secondly, it positions its hypervisor as an embedded component on the most popular server lines, ensuring a steady flow of customers as part of their normal hardware refresh cycles.
The day is rapidly approaching when virtualization ceases to be a cutting-edge enterprise technology and becomes an essential commodity for even the most basic environment.