VMware is launching a new, embedded version of its flagship ESX Server hypervisor, along with a disaster recovery tool and an update for its virtual desktop broker.

The so-called thin hypervisor, named ESX Server 3i, will be integrated in servers from Dell, IBM, and HP, according to VMware, with unnamed others to follow. The plan is that building virtualisation into the hardware simplifies deployment and management of virtual infrastructure, because it removes the installation step.

ESX Server 3i partitions a physical server into multiple secure and portable virtual machines, said VMware. The vendor claimed that users will have the hypervisor up and running "in a matter of minutes." According to Tommy Armstrong, VMware's European marketing manager, 3i allows a company use their preferred hardware OEM and, once booted, the server asks for the admin password and IP address, and is ready to run virtual machines.

VMware claimed that 3i was "the only hypervisor on the market today that does not incorporate a general-purpose operating system, thus freeing it from the many challenges involved in maintaining a general purpose OS." 3i occupies only 32MB because VMware has removed the OS without affecting the functionality of the hypervisor. VMware reckoned it achieved this by removing the service console, which Armstrong reckoned reduced the footprint by 98 percent. Instead of managing the system locally, it can be accessed via VirtualCenter, VMware's management tool for virtualised infrastructure.

As well as simplicity, VMware's claimed that the benefits of this approach include reliability and security.

“Today, VMware is ushering in a new era where virtualisation is not separate from hardware, it is simply how industry-standard servers operate,” said marketing manager Raghu Raghuram. ”We have worked with our partners to integrate ESX Server directly into their hardware. Now customers can turn on their servers and boot directly into a fully-functioning hypervisor to rapidly and easily realise the benefits of virtualisation. We expect this advance to simplify virtualisation and make it accessible to customers of all sises.”

According to the company, users can deploy VMware's Infrastructure 3 (VI3) products on top of 3i, including VirtualCenter, VMotion, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), High Availability (HA), and VMware Consolidated Backup.

Hardware vendors are expected to begin shipping ESX Server 3i within their products by the end of 2007 and over the course of 2008. IBM has already pre-announced such a device.

Virtual Desktop Manager 2

VMware's updated Virtual Desktop Manager, VDM2, brings higher levels of control and manageability according to the company.

VDM2 is part of VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which provides centralised desktop management and control using VI3 and is tightly integrated with Virtual Center. VDI delivers desktop images to users via virtual machines running on servers in the datacentre, rather than under the desk.

VDM2 connects remote clients to the right desktop, depending on roles and privileges and is designed to meet the security and scalability needs of small and large deployments, said VMware. The product is expected to be generally available later this year.

“The desktop is fundamentally changing,” said desktop division director Jerry Chen. “Our customers are transforming the way they manage their desktop infrastructure, replacing their traditional PCs with centralised desktops that can be more effectively managed and controlled. Users of virtual desktops can enjoy reliability, data protection and disaster recovery capabilities that traditionally have only been available for server applications. In addition, they get the flexibility of being able to access their desktops from many locations and devices.”

"IDC predicts that revenue for desktop virtualisation software will be nearly $2 billion by 2011, and we feel virtual machines for desktop computing is one of the most exciting developments within the technology industry in recent years," said IDC's John Humphreys. "We see that there is significant opportunity for organisations to improve the efficiency with which they provide computing resources to their users through the use of virtualised client computing technologies - and with a solution like VDI, organisations have an alternative that not only provides a familiar user experience, but also helps to centralise desktops and improve data security and user productivity."

Site Recovery Manager

Site Recovery Manager is a new product that's claimed to improve organisations’ ability to recover their datacentres when disasters and outages occur. SRM enables VI3 users to automate the setting up, testing, and execution of recovery plans, said VMware.

The new product eliminates dependencies between operating systems and hardware and simplifies protection and recovery of systems and data, according to VMware, which has been trailing its competitors in marketing virtualisation as a disaster recovery technology. SRM allows users to create, configure, and manage recovery plans from VirtualCenter, offers automated failover, and easier testing of recovery plans, said the company.

“VMware customers have demonstrated that disaster recovery is one of the killer applications driving adoption of VMware virtual infrastructure,” said Raghuram. “VMware Site Recovery Manager demonstrates our continuing focus on extending the compelling value of the VMware Infrastructure 3 platform for disaster recovery. Site Recovery Manager brings together the capabilities of VMware Infrastructure 3 and our partners’ leading replication technology with its pioneering disaster recovery automation and management capabilities in order to take risk, cost, and complexity out of organisations’ disaster recovery plans.”

Virtualisation allows disaster recovery setups to be smaller and cheaper because, rather than duplicating production systems, virtual machines can be used for failover, reducing the need for duplicated hardware expenditure and management.

“Growing awareness of the business consequences of datacentre outages and regulations including SOX and HIPPA that mandate disaster recovery are helping to raise awareness of the importance and preparation required to ensure successful recovery. Server virtualisation solutions are actually enabling faster and more reliable disaster recovery,” said Mark Bowker, analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group. “VMware Site Recovery Manager provides an effective way to simplify and automate disaster recovery in order to rapidly restore business operations when disasters occur.”