HP Details Plans for VMware Hypervisor Integration with ProLiants
Published: February 27, 2008
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Last summer, the previously independent XenSource, now part of Citrix Systems, and its juggernaut rival, VMware, both launched so-called embedded versions of their respective Xen and ESX Server virtual machine hypervisors. Both companies figured out that the hypervisor would not just eventually be a commodity, but that it should be part of a desktop or server system.
As it turns out, Hewlett-Packard has been preparing for the day when the ESX Server 3i and Xen Embedded hypervisors would be put directly onto systems and stored in memory, much as BIOS configuration data for every PC and server machine is currently stored on battery-backed CMOS. The company has, in fact, engineered an internal keychain-style flash drive port in each of its current generation of ProLiant servers, and according to Jeff Carlat, director of software marketing for HP's Industry Standard Server division, it will begin offering support for VMware's ESX Server 3i (which has had ESX Server's management console removed to trim it down to a 32 MB install) on March 31.
"We're a strong advocate for getting the hypervisor down into the box," says Carlat. "It is all about time to hypervisor and reducing the footprint of the hypervisor to make it more efficient." HP has also spent a lot of time, he says, on integrating the embedded hypervisor with the Systems Insight Manager and ProLiant Essentials Virtualization Pack software that is used to manage physical and virtual servers, which means monitoring and alerts for the ESX Server 3i hypervisor and its guest operating systems mesh with the same tools and provide the same kind of messages that HP customers are used to getting from their physical ProLiant servers that have a dedicate and sole operating system on them. Similarly, the Smart Update Manager tool for ProLiants--think of it as a Windows Update for systems-level software on a ProLiant server--now knows about VMware's ESX Server 3i hypervisor and can make necessary updates to it. Perhaps more importantly for ProLiant shops who pick HP's boxes for the hand-holding as much as they do for the iron, HP now has nearly 300 dedicated VMware services engineers on staff, and it will continue to ramp that up as virtualization becomes more standard among ProLiant customers.
HP is going to ship ESX Server 3i in a standard edition, which comes on the flash drive as a base product, and as a larger stack that comes with ESX Server 3i on the flash drive and an enterprise edition that has the full VMware Infrastructure 3 software stack on the server's hard drives and enabled to manage the flash-based hypervisor. Pricing for the embedded flash and hypervisor have not been announced, but it is expected to be on the order of a few hundred bucks; HP has an OEM agreement with VMware, and it will probably offer some discounts on the VI3 stack to peddle the software to ProLiant shops.
Incidentally, ProLiant servers have had redundant BIOSes for many years, but thus far HP has not decided that having redundant and fault tolerant hypervisors is necessary.
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