Because of limitations in a portion of the Linux kernel, called the scheduler, Katana's virtual SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) machines can be no larger than 16 processors. Gardner, however, believes the technology may appeal to users who are looking to build the equivalent of 4-processor or 8-processor SMP machines out of inexpensive dual-processor systems.
Katana joins a growing number of vendors hoping to sell this kind of technology. Research firm IDC estimates that virtualization software sales amounted to $4.3 billion in 2003, and will grow to $14.2 billion by 2008.
In addition to major vendors like IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, a host of smaller vendors, including Cassatt, Platform Computing and VMware, have entered the market.
"Each one of these people has come up with a way to build a virtual environment," said Dan Kusnetzky, an IDC analyst also briefed by Katana. "The trickiest thing about any of these approaches is how do you take applications that were never written to be virtualized and somehow create a virtual environment that they can flow into without requiring changes."
Davis believes that his engineers accomplished this.
"Sometimes you want to carve up a physical system into multiple smaller systems; other times you want to aggregate systems together, other times you want to create high available virtual computers," he said. "We do all of those things and it's all transparent to the applications because we've done virtualization at the right level."
Davis did not provide naming or pricing information on the Katana product.