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VMware updates server software

The new version of its lower-end server product is updated to run atop versions of Linux from SuSE, MandrakeSoft and Red Hat.

VMware, whose software lets a computer be split into several independent machines, released a new version of its lower-end server product Monday.

GSX Server 2.0 is updated to run atop the newest versions of Linux from SuSE, MandrakeSoft and Red Hat, as well as Microsoft Windows .Net Server due this year.

The new version also can take advantage of a capability on some Intel servers to address up to 8GB of memory, the company said, and it supports new processors, such as Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon XP and Intel's Xeon, and two-processor Athlon servers.

The new version, which costs $3,549 and is available immediately, also is speedier than its predecessor when it comes to communicating with networks or storage systems.

Companies such as VMware illustrate the gradual improvement in sophistication of Intel servers, which once were little more than high-end PCs. By enhancing their capabilities, Intel servers also are taking on some of the higher prices of their higher-end Unix server or mainframe siblings.

VMware got its start through workstation versions of its software, useful for running demonstrations or testing software on different operating systems. But the server products are an increasingly important part of its business, potentially accounting for more than half of the company's revenue by the end of 2002, CEO Diane Greene said.

"The server products are on a steep growth curve, much steeper than the workstation," Greene said.

GSX runs atop a host operating system, either Linux or Windows, and lets several other independent operating systems share the same hardware, including processors, network cards, disk drives and memory. VMware's higher-end ESX version runs atop the hardware without a host operating system, providing better performance but costing more than GSX.

This partitioning of a single server into several "virtual machines" is a useful way to get more mileage out of the same hardware when not all jobs require the full resources of the computer. This feature is also available in more sophisticated forms on Unix servers and mainframes--more powerful computers that sometimes have fault-isolation technology to keep one partition running even if major components such as memory or processors fail in another.

Intel servers are just beginning to permit partitioning, with VMware and IBM leading the charge.

In its earliest days, VMware vaulted out of obscurity through its Linux connection. Now, about 65 percent of the company's sales go to Windows systems, Greene said.

Welch's, a maker of fruit juices, is testing VMware's GSX server in systems that control the juice recipes that factory systems follow. Once a recipe is tuned correctly, that virtual machine can be saved and reused on other servers or reloaded if there is a crash, according to VMware.

Dell Computer is an investor in VMware.

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