products_VIO-4008-HDDIf you think storage and server virtualization is the end of the line for the VM world, you'd best rethink that. Virtensys asserts virtualization goes another layer deep. In theory, Input/Output virtualization means you'll never have to plug in more than a few cables to get your network up and running. Plus, they're launching a channel program with Promark. Got your attention? Read on.

Here's how it works: Virtensys has a box, complete with their in-house processor, that works with up to 16 servers. The Virtensys box allows for up to 4 'off the shelf' PCI cards to be installed for FiberChannel, Ethernet or storage adapters. Each of your servers get Virtensys's special PCI express adapter. One cable (per server) goes from the server, to the Virtensys box, via the PCI Express adapter. The Virtensys box gets connected via those 'off the shelf' cards out to the rest of your network. The Virtensys communicates with the servers, and the servers act as if all the I/O and Storage were based locally, not virtualized.

You're done. Wires gone. Efficiency up. (Assuming everything works as claimed.)

Virtensys is able to complete this task of  virtualizing all the I/O and storage from one device since the PCI-E 8X slot allows a 20-40 Gigabit a second communication. Plus, all server management can come virtually (no pun intended) from the Virtensys box, eliminating all the micromanaging you'd deal with and cutting the  mess of wires typical of  blade server rack systems.

The theoretical beauty of the device (and the point Virtensys wants to stress beyond anything) is that this is completely transparent to the network, and there's no performance hit. Their processor is the heart of this technological feat. Since it's virtualized through a dedicated chip, and not a software layer, it's incredibly efficient.

Bob Napaa, VP of marketing and business development at Virtensys, claims buying a Virtensys system is actually pretty cost effective. Since all I/O and storage can be virtualized, you can essentially buy a server that's simply a processor and RAM, and leave all the extras behind. So long as the server is equipped with a PCI-Express port, you're set. Virtensys says they've been using sub 1U server racks (or 1U's that contain 2 servers) extensively with their setup. So now size and power-efficiency are pluses, too.

You might be worried about bandwidth and bottlenecks. I was. Virtensys says that you can shift priority from one server to another, if something special needs to happen on the network. At the moment, there are some limitations based on the PCI-Express server adapter, but a new version around the corner is allegedly going to  support multiple I/Os and multiple images of the same adapter to the server.

So VARs, do you want in? Promark -- well known for it's focus on the government vertical--  is the exclusive partner now, but there will be others as the year flows on. VARs outside the US will have to wait until mid-Q1 2010 for their chance to work with Virtensys. (Right now, Virtensys is offering two boxes: the VIO 4001 and the 4008 (pictured). They're nearly identical, but the 4001 doesn't support storage virtualization.  Napaa stressed that  the channel program is an important part of their revenue strategy, and proudly stated they showcased their product in September at VM World and earned the "Best of" Gold award.

Will I/O Virtualization be the new trend? We'll keep a good beat on it as things progress.