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VMware tool tries new twist on power savings

VMware Infrastructure 3.5 will include experimental support for a feature that can automatically consolidate work onto fewer servers to save power.

VMware announced details of its forthcoming Virtual Infrastructure 3.5 on Monday, including an experimental feature to shut down servers if they're not necessary.

The feature, called Distributed Power Management, monitors how hard servers are working and moves virtual machines to new machines to let unneeded servers be shut down. When workload picks up again, the servers are powered up again, according to the publicly traded EMC subsidiary.

Virtual Infrastructure includes two main components. First is ESX Server, the underlying hypervisor that lets a single physical computer run multiple operating systems simultaneously in compartments called virtual machines. Second is VirtualCenter, which lets administrators monitor and manage those virtual machines.

Among other new features in VI 3.5, which is scheduled to be generally available later this year:

• The new ESX Server 3.5 gives Linux a boost with support for paravirtualization, which speeds some operations when the operating system is tailored to run on a virtual-machine foundation. It also can use a hardware feature called nested page tables that speeds memory accesses, modernizes storage and network abilities, and can run on servers with up to 128GB of memory.

• VMware Update Manager, which allows administrators to monitor which patches have been applied to operating systems and to apply those patches, regardless of whether a virtual machine is running or paused and saved to disk.

• Storage VMotion, a feature demonstrated at VMworld that lets a database's data store be moved from one storage system to another even as it's in use. The feature can be handy when taking a storage system down for repairs or upgrades, though the network resources required to move the data store to a new storage system can consume some of the capacity the database had when running ordinarily.

VMware sells VI in three editions: the basic Foundation, the mid-range Standard and the top-end Enterprise. For every two processors installed in a server (a processor being an x86 chip with up to four cores), Foundation costs $995, Standard costs $2,995 and Enterprise costs $5,750.

The Foundation product used to be called Starter, but the renamed version now removes previous limits on server processor count, memory utilization and shared storage.