VMware has taken the wraps off of vSphere 4, the latest version of its enterprise virtualization platform. The company is positioning this new product as the successor to VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3 product line, and is hoping it will emerge as a popular solution for companies trying to bridge in-house office IT resources (which VMware dubs "the internal cloud") and off-premise hosted and cloud computing resources. According to Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's Senior Director of Product Marketing, VMware vSphere 4 should be available in Q2 2009.

In a sign that virtualization is reaching every corner of the enterprise, VMware is touting new technology in vSphere 4 that allows critical applications such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, and SAP to be more efficiently virtualized. Here's an excerpt from the VMware news release about some of the core technology improvements vSphere 4 brings to the table:

  • Networking performance. VMware vSphere 4 comes with enhancements to NetQueue – VMware’s support for Intel’s VM-optimized networking technology VMDq. vmxnet3, the third generation of VMware’s paravirtualized virtual machine network drivers, and with optional receive-side scaling (RSS), which additionally speeds up network throughput.
  • Storage I/O performance. VMware vSphere 4 incorporates a new paravirtualized virtual machine storage device called pvscsi which improves the throughput for storage access. It also implements advanced concurrency I/O, which optimizes storage throughput for high-transaction-rate workloads.
  • Improved consolidation ratios. VMware vSphere 4 includes a greatly optimized processor scheduler which is now cache hierarchy-aware and can deliver more database transactions, web page requests, and email messages than any other hypervisor.
  • Support for hardware assist for virtualization. VMware has been working with processor vendors AMD and Intel, to incorporate their hardware assist for virtualization in to our software. VMware was the first virtualization vendor to support first generation enhancements from AMD and Intel in 2006. In 2008, VMware became the first to support the second generation AMD-Rapid Virtualization Indexing (RVI) technology, and is now the first and only to support Intel’s Extended Page Tables (EPT) and VMDq technology.

Perhaps in response to the threat of Microsoft's Hyper-V in the SMB market, VMware will offer several editions of vSphere 4.0 aimed at SMBs, beginning with VMware vSphere 4 Essentials, which is priced at under $1000 for three physical servers, or about $166 per processor. VSphere 4 Essentials Plus adds data protection and HA to the basic essentials packages, and is priced at under $3000 for three physical servers (or $499 per processor). The remaining version of vSphere 4 are aimed at the enterprise datacenter, including vSphere 4 Standard, vSphere 4 Advanced, vSphere 4 Enterprise, and vSphere 4 Enterprise Plus. Each of the enterprise editions adds extra functionality, with the Enterprise Plus edition including all available vSphere features, such as VMware VMotion, VMware Fault Tolerance for continuous availability, VMware Data Recovery for backup, VMware vShield Zones, VMware DRS, VMware vNetwork Distributed Switch, and VMware Host Profiles.

VMware vSphere 4

Note: Windows IT Pro will be covering the VMware vSphere 4 launch event live from VMware campus in Palo Alto later this morning, so continue to check for updates at the Windows IT Pro website and on my Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/jeffjames3. I'm also in town for RSA 2009, so look for updates on the latest security news and products as well.

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