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August 31, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO -- Xsigo Systems Inc. is throwing added weight behind its virtual I/O for data centers, as it's coming out with its first Ethernet product and making it software-based, meaning it can be plopped onto any old server.
Xsigo is making the announcement at a press conference today at the W Hotel, one block from the VMworld conference going on in San Francisco. The event has a boxing theme, "Xsigo vs. the Heavyweight," which sets up expectations of big-time trash talk against Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).
"I proposed silk robes, but it didn't go over very well," says Jon Toor, Xsigo's vice president of marketing.
When servers go virtual, they're able to run whatever application is needed at the time. Xsigo performs a similar virtualization on the server I/O. Normally, the server might need multiple cables depending on the protocol the application needs -- Fibre Channel versus Ethernet, for instance. Xsigo replaces that with one cable that connects to Xsigo's I/O Director, which in turn connects to the network. (See Xsigo Gets Real, Gets Virtual.)
Xsigo's protocol of choice for this I/O virtualization has been InfiniBand, because of its speed. With today's announcement, Xsigo is saying it will support Ethernet as well, because it's now able to produce systems with 10-Gbit/s Ethernet interfaces.
InfiniBand isn't rare, but it's more expensive than Ethernet and certainly not ubiquitous. "This expands the addressable market tenfold," Toor says.
Possibly more important is that Xsigo no longer needs to plug into a card on the server. Its I/O virtualization can be applied by downloading a driver to the server.
That's huge, Toor claims, because data center operators would otherwise have to take the server off the rack and take time to add the new card. "You can go up to a server and plug a cable into it. What you can't do is decommission a server for a day so you can install new hardware," he says. "He will go out and buy a new server before he does that."
At least one enterprise customer likes the sound of all this. "The thing I'm looking most forward to is the fact that I can take this to any server at any time," says Jay Leone, a lab manager for Avaya Inc. "To migrate them to new shared storage, this'll make it really easy."
Cisco's answer to virtual I/O is likewise Ethernet-based, but for the storage realm, it involves using Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). Xsigo likes its way better, because plain Ethernet is cheaper.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading
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