Virtually Speaking: Taking a Bite of the Apple

by Amy Newman

VMware Fusion goes gold, giving Mac users another virtual outlet, while the green revolution makes virtualization more attractive.

Amy Newman

The Mac may have a reputation for being cutting edge, but when it comes to applications, it all too often gets the short end of the stick. Virtualization is no exception to this. Up until now, Mac-happy enterprises that wanted to use virtualization were limited to SWsoft's Parallels, which is not to say that it isn't a good product. It's just, well, always better to have choices.

This week, VMware took steps to change that: It stamped VMware Fusion gold. Aimed primarily at desktop users, the application carries a modest price point of $79.99. It can virtualize a Mac OS X system such that Windows applications can be run to deliver the full "Windows experience," Pat Lee, senior product manager for Mac products at VMware, told ServerWatch.

In addition to Windows, you can use VMware Fusion to run Linux, FreeBSD and Solaris, as well as other PC-based applications simultaneously, Lee said. VMware Fusion also offers dual-core and virtual SMP support and enables Mac users to run 32- and 64-bit operating systems, leveraging two processor cores at the same time and using a wide variety of USB 2.0 devices. Fusion also offers power management capabilities to safeguard virtual machines when laptops are running out of battery.

Since going into beta in December 2006, there have been 250,000 downloads of VMware Fusion.

As great as it is to see a VMware product for the Mac, VMware Fusion may not be coming to a server room any time soon. It's first and foremost a desktop product, for both the commercial and consumer space, Lee said. Moreover, although it runs on servers as well as desktops, it is a "single machine product today," Lee said.

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Nowhere is this target market made more clear than in its sales channels, which are more consumer than enterprise in nature. In addition to being available directly from VMware, "Mac enthusiasts," as the press release billed the target community, can pick up Fusion at the Apple Store, Amazon.com, Buy.com, Fry's, Microcenter and CompUSA. The software is expected to be available soon at Apple's retail stores and other authorized retailers worldwide as well.

SWsoft, no doubt in preparation for a face off with VMware, put the next version of Parallels into beta late last week. Version 3.0 adds support for Open Windows files with Mac programs and Mac files in Windows programs with Parallels SmartSelect; the capability to browse through Windows folders and access files without launching Windows with Parallels Explorer; the capability to run selected PC games on a Mac with support for 3D graphics; and protection for Windows virtual machines with Parallels Snapshots. There is also experimental support for new software and multiple snapshots.

While both products will likely end up on even footing with Mac enthusiasts, VMware Fusion may have a slight upper hand in data centers, as Parallels currently supports only desktops.

Green Thumbs Up for Virtualization?

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) late last week released a report detailing what's in store energy-wise for data centers in the next few years.

According to the report, data centers consumed about 60 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2006, roughly 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption. Of this, federal servers and data centers account for approximately 6 billion kWh (or 10 percent), at a total electricity cost of about $450 million per year, a press release summarizing the highlights said.

The energy consumption of data centers (and servers) has doubled in the past five years and is expected to almost double again in the next five years. The report estimates it will reach close to 100 billion kWh. In other words, about $7.4 billion will be spent annually on power come 2011.

There is a glimmer of hope. With power becoming so costly, enterprises have incentive to go green. Technologies and strategies already available have the potential to reduce typical server energy use by an estimated 25 percent.

Another good reason to consider equipment consolidation and virtualization, not mention putting in an RFP to purchase more energy-efficient (and more powerful and virtualization friendly) servers. Perhaps, this will turn out to be the final push to help virtual machines leap from test and development servers into production ones.

More details will be revealed at a Web-based discussion this Thursday.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001.

This article was originally published on Tuesday Aug 7th 2007
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