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New VMware server trims app-testing cycle

Michael S. Mimoso, Editorial Director

The virtualization market has been a newsmaker since the start of 2004. Considered a key data center technology for cutting costs and stemming Linux and Windows server sprawl, virtualization

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specialists have been hot acquisition fodder for some time.

Microsoft got the ball rolling a year ago when it acquired Connectix Corp. and, more recently, storage vendor EMC Corp. pulled off a shocker when it picked up market leader VMware Inc.

Last week, Microsoft released the beta version of its Virtual Server 2004 software to 15,000 testers. Today, VMware joins the fray with its first product since the EMC buy was finalized Jan. 9.

Production test environments don't necessarily need performance but the ability to easily run on a bunch of different hardware.
Gordon Haff
server technology analyst Illuminata Inc.

GSX Server 3, VMware's midtier virtualization server, includes enhancements that target application-testing groups inside the enterprise. It will be available by the end of February. Pricing will start at $2,500 for a server with two CPUs. It is a free update for current GSX Server 2.5 customers.

"We already have [the] ability to automate test cases or scripts [as do others, like IBM Rational and Mercury Interactive]. In this version, we add the ability to automate an entire test environment," said Michael Mullany, vice president of marketing. You can take snapshots of your virtual machine at any time and keep a gold copy in your VM file for your records. You can keep a record of the testing process at any stage.

"This reduces the testing cycle from days, in some cases, to minutes. All you have to do to recover an image is drag a new copy of the server to GSX," Mullany said. "This eliminates a lot of the manual processes of application development."

Gordon Haff, server technology analyst with Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, N.H., said GSX 3's ability to automate an entire test environment is unique.

"These enhancements continue to move GSX upscale, where it really has more enterprise types of performance features," Haff said. "Production test environments don't necessarily need performance but the ability to easily run on a bunch of different hardware."

GSX 3, an enterprise product for servers, is being promoted as a department-level consolidation server, Mullany said.

"It solves server sprawl in the Linux and Windows space, where there are a number of smaller servers that are under-utilized," Mullany said. "You stack virtual machines on a single physical server."

GSX Server 3 is built with 3.6 GB of memory per virtual machine in order to support larger applications. It also features teamed network adapter support and SCSI backup devices. On the management end, VMware Virtual Center has been tuned to allow for customization and provisioning of server images and configurations. It also includes PXE provisioning for the installation of new virtual machines over a network. Administrators will also have the ability to migrate virtual machines from GSX Server 3 to VMware's data center ESX Server.

"You can treat all virtual machines as a single pool and manage it with Virtual Center," Mullany said. "With Virtual Center, you can see all your virtual machines on one interface, move them, manage them and see utilization rates."


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