Virtual Iron has launched version 3.0 of its virtualisation software, aimed directly against VMware.

Based on the open-source Xen hypervisor, which manages hardware resources, Virtual Iron 3.0 requires Intel or AMD's processor-based virtualisation support to create the necessary abstraction layer between physical hardware and virtual resources - although the company said support for the AMD technology is "experimental".

It currently supports only two OSes, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, both 32 and 64-bit versions. According to one source, the company plans support for Windows in version 3.1, the beta of which is due shortly. It comes in three versions:

  • Professional Edition is free, and supports partitioning and basic management of a single virtualised node with two sockets maximum
  • Consolidation Edition supports server partitioning and basic management for multi-server configuration and support.
  • Enterprise Edition enables server partitioning for multi-server configuration and advanced management capabilities for rapid provisioning, high availability, disaster recovery, workload management and policy-based automation

The product split mirrors that of market leader VMware, which gives away the basic server versions but offers its flagship product ESX Server with enterprise-level features at a hefty premium. It has however already responded to competitive pressure, and reduced the price of ESX Server to $1,000 per two CPUs, from $3,800. Meanwhile, the gorilla in the forest - Microsoft - is still working on its Virtual Server product, which isn't due until 2008.

In support of his company's use of XenSource's controversial Xen hypervisor, Virtual Iron founder and CTO Alex Vasilevsky, said in his blog: "Although the current proprietary offerings have a few years head start on Xen, we expect that gap to close quickly. Hypervisor support for chip-assisted virtualisation quickly negated several years worth of VMWare's development efforts. In addition, the Xen project and ecosystem have clearly reached critical mass and the Xen hypervisor is emerging as the de facto standard base to be used in server virtualisation."