Enterprises have become familiar with server virtualisation and storage virtualisation in the datacentre, but they can now reduce operating costs and simplify management by using I/O virtualisation (IOV), according to startup VirtenSys.
The company has officially unveiled its first IOV switches, which aggregate all the I/O from a rack of servers through the switch. These are currently shipping to server and storage vendors, which are expected to be able to deliver them to enterprise customers towards the end of this year. The switches will also be demonstrated this week at VMworld Europe 2009 in Cannes.
The VirtenSys architecture replaces each individual server's various network and storage interfaces with a single high-bandwidth PCI Express (PCIe) link to the IOV switch, typically fitted at the top of each rack. The servers can thus be reduced to little more than a processor and memory, while the IOV switch provides them with standard Ethernet links to the corporate network and fibre channel or Infiniband connections to the storage area network.
Bob Napaa, vice president of business development at VirtenSys, claimed that the aim of the new technology is to reduce operating costs for datacentres.
"The cost of servers hasn't increased, but more money is being spent on deployment and maintenance and cabling. We've focused our efforts on reducing cabling and admin overheads," he said.
The advantage of IOV is that administrators do not need to move cables around to re-configure server connections, Napaa explained, reducing management costs by 60 to 70 per cent. With fewer switches and less cabling needed, hardware costs can also be reduced by about 50 per cent.
Perhaps more significantly, Napaa said that IOV enables dynamic allocation of the bandwidth available to each server, based on the workload each is handling.
VirtenSys said that its architecture is transparent to the operating system and applications thanks to an abstraction layer that provides virtual network and storage adapters.
"It looks exactly like the same adapter card is still in the server to the operating system," said VirtenSys chief technology officer Marek Piekarski.
The PCI Special Interest Group that maintains the PCIe standard has already added support for IOV, and Piekarski said that the VirtenSys products are fully compliant with these.
Two initial VirtenSys switches have been unveiled. The VMX-5000 LS can be fitted with standard PCIe host bus adapters to connect to network and storage, while the VMX 5000 LSR can also be configured with a Sata disk Raid array to provide local storage for the servers, eliminating the need for blade server systems to have any onboard storage, the company said.
VirtenSys did not disclose pricing for the switches, which it said will be down to vendors such as IBM, HP, Sun and Fujitsu-Siemens. One major vendor has already signed up to support the switches as part of its datacentre portfolio, according to VirtenSys.
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