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Analysis

Xsigo Performance Manager puts its virtual infrastructure in the picture
Peter Williams By: Peter Williams, Practice Leader - IT Infrastructure Mgmt., Bloor Research
Published: 28th February 2012
Copyright Bloor Research © 2012
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Xsigo Systems, so far the only networking vendor to offer open virtualised connection between servers and storage, has now added Xsigo Performance Manager. Users can now watch traffic flows between physical and virtual servers and storage or other local and remote network-attached devices.

As I indicated in my review of the company last September, my view is that the Xsigo virtual cabling approach covering both fibre channel (FC) and Ethernet is an absolute must if enterprises are to reach the goal of being truly agile. In fact, as long as there are no obvious negatives - and I can't see any for the mid-market upwards - my question is: "Why wouldn't you take this route?"

The new plug-in to Xsigo XMS Management fills an important gap as it allows administrators to watch in detail all I-O traffic across all attached resources. Among its facilities are: a single pane consolidated view of data traffic across all server, virtual machine, storage and networking resources, more granular views ranging from individual ports to entire physical servers, a mix of FC and Ethernet, collection of historical data over a specific time period (hours/days/months) with comparison between older and newer data used to produce trend analyses.

Speaking to CEO Lloyd Carney a few days ago, I asked him why others were not coming in as competitors to Xsigo's "so obvious" approach. He pointed out that the hardware, which included some complex ASICs, had required a high degree of upfront investment - so that, for instance, 48 simultaneous conversations could now be accommodated on one physical cable along with supporting a mix of FC (4/8Gb) and Ethernet (1/10Gb) traffic.

Also, those companies with the needed know-how as well as deep pockets to invest - the big switch and network infrastructure vendors - would undermine their own equipment market if they introduced a Xsigo-type solution that obviated a lot of their devices. So what they were doing for now was providing solutions requiring their own equipment to reside at both ends of the network as well as in the middle; but Carney said they could not compete on cost and flexibility - or, tellingly, even on performance.

These companies also have little incentive to provide traffic monitoring solutions covering a Xsigo virtual network - so Xsigo had little choice but to address this directly for itself. (Xsigo does provide an open API so that, for instance, Tivoli or CA could include monitoring within their own tools.)

Aside from the agility aspect, the biggest reason for a huge increase in sales during last year - tripled revenue and a 300% increase to 260 customers - is the potential for massive capex and opex cost savings among users with a large number of virtual server connections - covering "east-west" (e.g. inter-server) as well as "north-south" (e.g. server to remote storage) transmission. There is the removal of costly physical switch and router equipment and firewalls (replaced by virtual routing and firewalls) and oodles of cabling; the knock-on effect is big energy savings through power and heat output/cooling reductions. Carney estimated about 10W was saved per power cable with an unexpected bonus being that less cabling produced improved airflow.

So, in these cash-strapped times, Xsigo's channel partners can invariably show potential customers a very rapid ROI which is easy to explain. As a start-up, Xsigo initially had challenges getting cooperation in getting certification for equipment provided by competing vendors. Now, according to Carney, users wanting their equipment certified provide the necessary push.

On the horizon this year is a new virtualised server fabric for the Xsigo VP780 I-O director box, with Carney hinting that it would run four times faster (expected in April) plus a further boost to connection links, up from 40 to 56Gb/s (in the summer). Currently one box officially supports 250 simultaneous virtual connections (and up to four boxes can be clustered), although Carney said it had been tested to 300 with one customer running considerably more. So watch these limits rocket this year.

Frankly, I cannot see why, in time, any sensible business would fail to follow this simple networking route towards an agile system - with the big network equipment vendors eventually facing up to providing a similarly open solution or watching as their market shares collapse. As for Xsigo, the future surely looks very bright.

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Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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