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VMware aims for four-processor abilities

Software that lets computers split into virtual machines will now create more powerful subdivisions.

VMware, the EMC subsidiary whose software lets a computer run multiple operating systems simultaneously in separate "virtual machines," has grown a step more ambitious.

The initial version of the company's software created virtual machines with the power of only a single-processor server. In 2003, VMware expanded to dual-processor servers, and this week, the company announced a version under development that will let each virtual machine have the power of four processors.

The capability, called 4-Way VMware Virtual SMP, will be released as an add-on to VMware's higher-end ESX Server software in the second half of 2005, the company said Wednesday at its VMworld conference.

Of servers sold today that are based on x86 chips from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices, the majority use one or two processors. But x86 systems are taking on more demanding tasks, such as housing databases or application servers, that often require four or more processors.

VMware's expansion would mean that large multiprocessor x86 servers could be subdivided to run these jobs as well as less demanding tasks. It also raises the possibility that with the company's VMotion software, tasks could be moved more easily from one physical machine to another as a customer deals with hardware failure, upgrades or other changes.

Microsoft now has a competing product, Virtual Server, but it can handle only single-processor work today. " will be addressed in a future version, but we don't have any dates to share for when this will be available," a Microsoft representative said.

Microsoft this week added a different new feature, though. Virtual Server Migration 2005 Toolkit helps customers move software from a physical server to a virtual server.