Product review: VMware pumps up VI3

ESX Server 3.5 and VirtualCenter 2.5 upgrades boost scalability and add handy new features; integrated tools for capacity planning, VM patching, and storage management fill important gaps, but wrinkles and loose ends remain

Tangentially related to the VI3 upgrade is the ESX Server 3i embedded hypervisor. This is likely to be the look of VM hosts in the not-too-distant future. An embedded hypervisor will remove the need for hard drives and harden the overall architecture. ESX 3i is first-generation code, and probably only worthy of testing for the moment but promises much in terms of the future of virtualization. For instance, we will probably start seeing diskless servers from major vendors pre-loaded with 3i on bootable internal flash drives. Removing hard drive support of any kind in these servers promises to shrink their overall footprint and reduce the size of power supplies and server power consumption. This eventuality is a ways away, obviously, but doesn't seem that far-fetched.

Overall, VMware's ESX 3.5 and VirtualCenter 2.5 release represents a logical next step, a necessary evolution of the flagship product. It brings some significant features to the table, and the nature of the VI3 licensing model coupled with the ease of upgrading will lure most users to upgrade quickly.

The next step for VMware is harder: deeper, hypervisor-level integration with third-party solutions to handle things like network packet inspection and application filtering and virus scanning at the instruction level. Also, considering VirtualCenter's new plug-in architecture and VMware's recent acquisition of Thinstall, the next version of VMware Infrastructure may leverage virtualized application delivery, which will have a significant impact on VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure). For example, instead of installing Microsoft Office into hundreds or thousands of Windows XP VMs, those applications could potentially be delivered to those VMs as needed, significantly reducing the storage requirements, the backup costs, and so on down the line.

VMware certainly has the most mature, stable, and expensive x86 virtualization product the world has ever seen. But there's lots more to be done, and many more bridges to be crossed. This is still just the very beginning.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Setup (15.0%)
Ease of administration (25.0%)
Performance (15.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Configuration (10.0%)
Manageability (25.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
VMware Infrastructure 3 with ESX Server 3.5 and VirtualCenter 2.5 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.0 8.0 8.7
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