VMware has updated its core infrastructure product to add more datacentre automation and high availability features, as well as making it more attractive to smaller businesses. The new Virtual Infrastructure 3.5 will be out later this year.

VMware aims to make it more attractive to smaller businesses by both providing specific bundles and tweaking its channel strategy. So far, Virtual Infrastructure has been primarily both aimed at and deployed by big enterprises.

The VI3.5 will, according to the company, include ESX Server 3.5 and VirtualCenter 2.5. The core hypervisor adds five main enhancements, listed VMware:

  • Expanded storage and networking choices such as support for SATA local storage, 10 Gig Ethernet, and Infiniband expand storage and networking choices for virtual infrastructure

  • Support for TCP segment offload and jumbo frames which reduce the CPU overhead associated with processing network I/O

  • Support for hardware nested page tables such as in processor assists for memory virtualisation

  • Support for para-virtualised Linux guest operating systems that enables higher levels of performance through virtualisation-aware operating systems

  • Support for virtual machines with 64GB of RAM and physical machines with up to 128GB of memory.

New availability and automation features include:

  • Storage VMotion enables live migration of virtual machine disks from one data storage system to another with no disruption or downtime. This means that, rather than just moving the identity of a VM, IT managers will be able to set policies that allow a virtual machine's disks also to be moved around to match resources.

  • Update Manager automates patch and update management for ESX Server hosts and virtual machines, said VMware. The product is claimed to track patch levels and manually apply security/bug fixes. Patching of offline virtual machines enforces higher levels of patch standards compliance than physical environments, reckoned the company. According to European marketing management Martin Niemer, UM also allows the host ESX machine to be patched by moving the VMs off the host, patching and rebooting if necessary, and shifting the load back again. Niemer said that the module supports Windows XP/Vista/2000/2003 and RHEL.

  • Guided Consolidation is a feature of VMware VirtualCenter that enables companies to get started with server consolidation in a step-by-step tutorial fashion, said VMware. Aimed at users with little knowledge of virtualisation, it consists of a wizard that discovers physical servers, identifies consolidation candidates, and converts them to virtual machines. It can also place them onto the best hosts, reckoned the company.

  • Distributed Power Management is an experimental feature that is claimed to cut datacentre power consumption balancing workloads, said VMware. It automatically shuts down servers not currently needed in order to meet service levels, and powers them on should compute resource demand increase.

VMware's also adding support for training and similar activities for those of its channel partners who sell mainly to smaller business.

VMware has segmented its products to a far greater extent than previously. It said the new package will be available in the following editions:

  • VMware ESX Server 3i, providing single server partitioning, will be delivered embedded as firmware in server systems or as a standalone purchase for hard-drive installation. If purchased standalone for hard-drive installation, ESX Server 3i list price will be $495 per two processors.

  • VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) Foundation (previously called Starter) will include ESX Server, ESX Server 3i, Consolidated Backup and the new Update Manager. Unlike the previous VI3 Starter, VI3 Foundation will have no restrictions on shared storage connectivity, memory utilisation or number of CPUs of the physical server. Foundation's list price will be $995 per two processors.

  • VI3 Standard is designed to bring higher levels of resiliency to IT environments, reckoned the company. It adds VMware HA which provides automated restart of virtual machines affected by hardware failure at a list price of $2,995 per two processors.

  • VI3 Enterprise includes all virtual infrastructure capabilities for resource management, workload mobility, and high availability. This includes VMotion, Storage VMotion, and DRS with Distributed Power Management. It costs $5,750 per two processors.

  • You'll be able to buy VMotion, Storage VMotion and DRS with DPM as standalone products with VI3 Foundation and Standard.

  • Existing VMware Infrastructure customers with valid support and subscription contracts will receive the new products and features included in each edition at no additional cost.

VMware will also introduce a range of packaging and pricing options specifically targeted at mid-sized and smaller businesses. These new packaging and pricing options become available concurrent with the general availability of the new version of VMware Infrastructure:

  • VirtualCenter Foundation will provide VirtualCenter management functionality for up to three nodes.

  • Infrastructure Foundation Acceleration Kit includes VirtualCenter Foundation and VI3 Foundation for six processors. It provides virtualisation and management functionality for three nodes.

  • VI Standard High Availability Acceleration Kit includes VirtualCenter Foundation and VI3 Standard for two processors and provides high availability IT infrastructure for branch offices, small offices or remote office.

  • VMware Infrastructure Midsize Business Acceleration Kit contains three two-processor nodes of VI Enterprise which includes VMware Infrastructure Standard plus Vmotion, Storage Vmotion, Distributed Resource Scheduler, Distributed Power Management (DPM) as well as VirtualCenter Foundation and training credits to help IT professionals become fully trained and certified on VI3.