Novell targets Sun virtualization customers

Novell Inc. is targeting Sun Microsystems Inc. customers after announcing its virtual migration software now offers physical-to-virtual support for Solaris 10 OS users.

The company said Platespin Migrate 8.1 is a significant update for customers using Solaris Containers, a form of operating system-level virtualization. While Microsoft Corp. or VMware Inc. customers have long enjoyed the ability to move physical workloads to a virtual environment with ease, Solaris users have been saddled with a largely manual process.

“The Solaris community really haven’t had that option and have had to build a virtual container up from scratch,” Mike Robinson, senior product marketing manager for Platespin said. “The OS comes as part of the container, but you have to install the application, install the patches, copy in the data, configure the data, test it to make sure it’s running properly and so on. It’s a long and manual process.”

With Platespin Migrate, users can automate the migration process by simply choosing the workload and the physical server they wish to send it to, Robinson said. The tool also supports multi-workload conversions, meaning an IT administrator could send multiple physical servers into one or more virtual server targets and vice versa. Users can perform up to 40 migrations, Robinson added.

Jeff Byrne, senior analyst and consultant with Hopkinton, Mass.-based research firm The Taneja Group, said that while the process isn’t as tedious as Novell makes it out to be, the fact that the process hasn’t been automated opens up the possibility for errors to occur at the configuration level.

“The Novell/Platespin offering helps to accelerate these migrations, especially in situations where a large number of physical workloads are being migrated, making them more foolproof,” he said. “I don’t know of a better third-party solution for doing this.”

Gary Chen, research manager of enterprise virtualization software for IDC Corp., agreed, saying the tool should be attractive for Solaris customers. He added that while Sun has developed a physical-to-virtual for Solaris 8 and 9 to a Solaris 10 Container, the company had yet to release a Solaris 10 to 10 offering.

“Platespin is very well regarded for its physical-to-virtual capabilities, so it has a good track record of being able to do this stuff well,” he said. “Interesting timing, given the bit of uncertainty over Solaris due to the pending Oracle acquisition.”

Despite the strong focus on Windows/x86 virtualization environments such as VMware, Hyper-V, and Xenserver amongst media outlets, Unix virtualization actually has a strong support base, according to Andi Mann, vice-president of research for Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates Inc.

The results of a 2008 EMA study of 627 organizations, ranging from SMB all the way up to large enterprises, indicated that 34 per cent of respondents are running virtualization on Unix platforms such as Solaris. But even with this many IT shops utilizing this platform for their mission critical workloads, the market for new and interesting Unix-based virtual systems management tools remains scarce, Mann said

“With this release, Solaris admins will be able to migrate workloads automatically to virtual containers, so their virtualization deployment is faster and more efficient, with less intervention and fewer problems,” he said. “That alone is probably worth the price of admission.”

For non-Solaris customers, the updated Platespin Migrate also adds new capabilities around block-based migration for business-critical workloads. While most file-by-file transfers shut down the workload, block-based migration allows IT administrators to transfer workloads even while other users might still be accessing them.

This is especially important as virtualization adoption is no longer just at the test and development server level for many companies, Robinson said.

“If a portion of a 2 GB database file is changed, you don’t really want to send the whole file again because somebody changed their name on it,” he said. “With file-based transfer systems, you are required to send the whole thing again.”

For IT teams that want to test mission-critical apps in a new virtual location, tests can often take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, Robinson said. “During that time the two workloads will go out of sync. They were synced when you copied them, but people have been making changed to the old one.”

Combining the product’s block-based transfer system with newly added server sync functionality, virtualization administrators can compare two workloads before and after a migration and later sync them up by only sending over the changed data.

EMA data found that about 80 per cent of enterprises are deploying virtualization simultaneously onto multiple platforms, with Windows, Linux and Unix all taking a piece of the pie. Mann said the ability to manage these platforms from one tool will help address one of the most daunting challenges a company can face when utilizing virtualization — the lack of skills and resources in the IT shop.

“The same admins that use Platespin Migrate for Windows and VMware, will be able to use the same skills to migrate workloads to Solaris containers,” he said, adding that organizations will save time and money in training costs, allow for cross-skilling of their IT staff, and speed up migration efforts.

“It is great to see Novell joining the limited number of vendors that understand virtualization is fundamentally heterogeneous, and enterprises need virtual systems management tools that reflect this reality.”

The Windows/Linux version of Platespin Migrate is priced at US $289 for a workload license, while PlateSpin Migrate for UNIX is priced at US $1,495 for a one-time licence.

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