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VMware Look Out! Hitachi Elbows into the Virtualization Game

BladeSymphony with Virtage aims to out-Xen Xen

(December 3, 2006) - In a move that will put pressure on EMC's VMware unit, Hitachi is claiming to have a mainframe-derived firmware approach to virtualization that's better than VMware or Xen or Microsoft.

The approach has been built into a new species of Hitachi's blade servers called BladeSymphony with Virtage, Virtage being the so-called "breakthrough" embedded widgetry that bakes virtualization into the hardware as an alternative to third-party virtualization software.

Being firmware, Hitachi says, Virtage can decrease overhead costs while increasing manageability and performance. The box runs both Windows and Linux.

IDC group VP Vernon Turner, the head of the researcher's Enterprise Computing practice, says BladeSymphony with Virtage is a "leap ahead in the virtualization game" and will fuel the proliferation of blades.

The machine has been out in Japan since August. Hitachi America Ltd, the company's year-old server unit, will start offering the Itanium version of the box here in January. The company is wholly unclear when it will have an advertised Xeon unit and be able to mix and match Xeon and Itanium blades in the same chassis.

Hitachi is an Intel groupie, mutters something about schedules being under NDA, and doesn't have an AMD version of Virtage. As an Intel account, Virtage exploits Intel's VT extensions in Itanium and Woodcrest. Applications never have to be changed to be virtualized, it said, like they sometimes have to be with VMware.

Anyway, you know how boys brag, but Hitachi claims the BladeSymphony server is the industry's first real enterprise-class mission-critical blade server and Hitachi chief systems architect Paul Figliozzi says the box deserves that distinction because of its multi-blade SMP interconnect architecture, hot-swap capabilities, high performance, 16 PCI slots and native virtualization.

Hitachi positions it as the place to consolidate all three data center tiers - the edge, the application and the database - into a single chassis and hence lower TCO. Hitachi marketing VP Steve Campbell says that for rival IBM to do that would take a combination of both Intel servers and p Series iron for the back-end, a less elegant solution that takes up more real estate.

BladeSymphony's SMP architecture lets up to four blades be lashed together into a single system. Since the 10U chassis holds eight blades altogether that's two 16-way SMP systems to a chassis. Each Itanium blade holds two dual-core processors for a total of 32 cores per chassis, reducing footprint and power consumption.

Hitachi has been peddling the BladeSymphony line for the last two years and owns 20% of Japanese blade market.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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