VMware technology allows multiple OSes to run simultaneously on the same Intel-based machine, so a user could boot Linux and then run Windows applications on another virtual PC.
The reason for the move, according to VMware''s Reza Malekzadeh, was simple. "We actually saw some of our customers using our desktop product as a server, and it was working for them," he said. "It was a natural for us to move into that field as well."
The two products, VMware GSX Server and VMware ESX Server, will allow servers to support multiple operating systems on the same Intel-based machine, similar to VMware for the desktop. All VMware products take advantage of "MultipleWorlds" technology, which is a software layer that sits between the Intel processor and the operating system. This allows a VMware PC to run totally within software.
Malekzadeh, director of marketing for the privately held VMware, says that the MultipleWorlds technology can be instituted effectively on headless servers with 300 MB 400 MB of RAM.
"An individual server can exist in isolation and remain within that virtual machine," he says. "It also moves a server past a disk-based model; by existing in a persistent state, the user can see increased performance."
The VMware GSX Server is geared toward server-class installations, such as corporate installations or Internet Server Providers (ISPs), supporting one to four virtual machines. With VMware GSX server, for example, an ISP could for institute a billing system that meters resources, charging on the basis of CPU time and RAM users. In addition, an ISP could give customers their own management tools without compromising the integrity of the server. The expected price of VMware GSX server is $2,500.
The VMware ESX Server is an enterprise-level server that''s designed to be scalable and approach mainframe-like deployments. A typical machine running VMware ESX server could support four to eight virtual machines, and it could also be clustered across several machines. This product is designed to cut down on administrative time spent by the IT staff: Setting up a new virtual PC is simply a matter of copying an existing configuration. Pricing for VMware ESX server will be based on a per-virtual-machine model.
Both products are in beta testing.
VMWare Workstation has half a million registered users, despite being considered by many to be a niche product. It is especially popular among software developers who must support multiple operating systems (e.g., Linux and Windows 2000) and take advantage of having both OSes running simultaneously on the same system.
But, as you might expect, there are differences in the server line. For these products, a remote console display and an API were added. In addition, there is more of a focus on I/O performance.
For now, VMware plans to stick with exclusive support of the Intel architecture and not move its products to other servers, such as Sun server. "We feel we have a lot of expertise in working with Intel processors, and we want to stick with what we know," Malekzadeh said.