Virtualization: More Than a Hardware & Software Stack


You may have seen Kevin’s recent posts (1, 2) on hardware virtualization. This technology allows multiple virtual machines, each running a separate operating system(OS), to run simultaneously on shared hardware. A growing number of customers are realizing increased scalability, consolidation, security, and high availability by running a virtual datacenter. I want to discuss what Dell does in this area and why it is important for us to deliver validated virtualization solutions rather than merely providing virtualization software installed on our servers to customers.

One of the more popular enterprise-class virtualization offerings is VMware ESX Server. Leaner than a conventional OS, ESX’s lightweight kernel efficiently allocates hardware resources to virtual machines. Guest OS’s run on top of this kernel with minimal overhead.

Since ESX allocates hardware resources at the bare metal layer, it requires specific support for all system components—including processors, chipsets, network cards, host-bus adapters, storage, backup, operating systems and systems management software. Installing ESX Server on an uncertified solution will almost certainly yield issues involving any number of these components.

Many aspects of virtualization software have complex compatibility requirements. One example is ESX’s VMotion feature, which migrates running virtual machines between servers with zero downtime. VMotion functionality depends on both the model and stepping of the servers’ processors. We define and test combinations of system components and provide support information to our customers.

At Dell, we engineer virtualization solutions. Our engineering team works closely with software partners such as VMware, starting very early on in the development and release cycle of the virtualization code. This technical collaboration ensures that the virtualization software runs efficiently on our systems without problems. We define an integrated set of hardware and software options, including Dell’s OpenManage suite. The entire solution is put through a rigorous test and validation cycle. Our efforts culminate in a validated factory-delivered solution. Our customers receive everything needed for deployment, including hardware, software, licenses, documentation, systems management integration, and support services. To find out more, visit Dell’s virtualization website.

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6 thoughts on “Virtualization: More Than a Hardware & Software Stack

  1. Bill: I try to review comments a couple of times a day, and sometimes during evening hours.

  2. Can you give the technical reasons why is Virtualization not supported on the XPS 700 Motherboard? 


  3. Expanding on the last question:  is the lack of virtualization support on the XPS 700 a motherboard issue (i.e. the required hardware is not present, the chipset does not support it. etc.) or a firmware issue (i.e. the BIOS does not support it.)  If the latter, it would seem that Dell could choose to provide support down the road.

    Beyond all that — why would Dell build its top of the line non-business PC without virtualization support?  One of the reasons I paid $3xxx for the 700 with Core 2 Duo was that I expected I’d be able to benefit from the virtualization support.  I’m extremely disappointed.

  4. Is there any news on a new BIOS that allows hardware virtualization? I’m extremely disappointed that this feature is not available in my brand new Dell XPS 700 with a with Core 2 Duo 🙁

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