Xsigo launches adapter-free Ethernet-based virtual I/O

Xsigo I/O Director enables converged infrastructures without the expensive FCoE or PCIe link extenders

Server virtualization has done an amazing job improving server utilization and consolidation ratios in data centers. For the most part, the server industry has done a wonderful job keeping pace with virtualization technology by advancing resources like CPU and memory.

However, packing a physical server with virtual machines has caused problems with other resources -- specifically, network and storage I/O. This is especially true when organizations start virtualizing mission-critical applications that often prove to be extremely I/O intensive. As a result, I/O bottlenecks in virtual environments are a growing and persistent problem within data centers as devices and ports become overwhelmed by the many I/O requests coming from virtual machines.

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At VMworld 2010, we're really starting to hear just how big this I/O problem has become. A common question heard on the show floor isn't if you are going to hit a virtual I/O bottleneck in your virtualized data center, but when. Numerous vendors are responding to the I/O challenge. Cisco and VMware have teamed up to create a network fabric being offered through the Unified Computing System (UCS); Hewlett-Packard is addressing the issue with its BladeSystem Matrix; and third-party vendors and startups are also throwing their hats into the ring.

One of those third-party vendors is Xsigo, which offers the Xsigo I/O Director hardware and software solution to streamline server I/O management. I/O Director replaces fixed resources with virtual resources, such as virtual NICs and virtual HBAs, which appear to the server, operating system, and applications exactly as their physical counterparts. The server itself is connected by a single InfiniBand cable.

Before the start of VMworld 2010, Xsigo said it would be launching a significant new virtual I/O technology that would accelerate the advancement of data center convergence -- one of the key enablers of cloud computing.

Today Xsigo finally removed the curtains to showcase that offering -- an Ethernet-based version of its I/O Director that it claims is the industry's first virtual I/O technology to leverage the standard Ethernet ports found on every x86 server.

One of the key takeaways with this announcement is that Xsigo is now able to provide its virtual I/O technology without requiring specialized hardware in the server. Instead, companies can utilize the standard 1Gb or 10Gb Ethernet port that's already installed in the server. That means no additional cost for an add-on card such as an FCoE adapter or PCIe link extender and no server disruption or downtime required for new device installation -- it's already in there.

The new Xsigo I/O Director allows customers to dynamically connect servers to as many as 64 isolated Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks with a single Ethernet cable to consolidate server connectivity. The company claims this is the missing ingredient to making private cloud architectures a reality.

Xsigo delivers a complete end-to-end converged connectivity solution for less than $500 per server, or about one-third the cost of a converged network adapter (CNA) card alone, according to Jon Toor, Xsigo vice president of marketing. Toor also said the new solution works hand-in-hand with the company's InfiniBand version, allowing companies to deploy one or the other or a combination of the two solutions, whatever works best within a company's environment. They can do that, he said, because the InfiniBand and Ethernet solutions employ the same I/O Director hardware and software platform, so the management can be done under one roof.

Also of note, Xsigo I/O Director -- like many new management applications -- can be managed from an iPhone or iPad device to provide a bit of mobility and on-the-go management capabilities.

Xsigo is making two versions of its Ethernet options available: VP560e I/O Director, priced at $35,000 (32 10G Ethernet ports, up to four I/O modules) and VP780e I/O Director, priced at $45,000 (32 10G Ethernet ports, up to 15 I/O modules). The products will ship in September.

This story, "Xsigo launches adapter-free Ethernet-based virtual I/O," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in virtualization and cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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