What is Green?
These days, the coolest cars are hybrids, and earth-conscious people wear clothes made from hemp, organic cotton and bamboo. Living green used to be a concept belonging to society’s fringe, but thanks to Hollywood, the green concept of sacrifice has become a mainstream lifestyle. Yes, there is always going to be that person who lives green only because it looks cool and not because they care about reducing their carbon footprint. But in the end, it doesn’t matter if their intentions are spawned by an environmental fad or born from a pragmatic desire to leave the earth better than they found it. Green is green.
This new lifestyle and attitude is popping up everywhere and affecting every aspect of life. The food we eat, how we choose to spend our money, the type of homes we build, and certainly the technology we put in our data centers. Doing more with less isn’t just a suggestion anymore; it’s a corporate-wide initiative seeping into every department across the enterprise.
Let’s take a step away from the green movement for a minute and think about muscle cars: up on blocks, draped in a car cover, and packed with more punch than anything coming off the assembly line. Muscle cars are an outgrowth of our human desire to go faster, perform better and run longer. With some fiddling on the carburetor settings and distributor advance curves, a determined old-time tuner could yield huge horsepower gains. Sure it requires drastic modifications to the original machine, and the outcome is often hard to duplicate, but one spin around the block behind the wheel of this “super car,” and it’s all worth it.
Doing more with less isn’t just a suggestion anymore; it’s acorporate-wide initiative seeping into every department across the enterprise.
Today, however, the fuel injection, ignition and hundreds of other functions that used to be adjusted with the turn of a screwdriver are all controlled by computer chips. Simply swapping out your stock engine chip for a high-quality auto performance chip can optimize the fuel/air ratio and spark map in your engine for the enthusiast driver. You’re not a typical driver so why use the typical stock chip and settle for average performance? With some high-performance chips, you still get great fuel mileage and clean emissions, but the engine operates at its full potential. All of the improvements with none of the extensive modifications.
With the corporate-wide initiative to “do more with less” in mind, consider the physical server. More and more are being added to racks in the data center (server sprawl), but most are underutilized by the applications they run. Similar to a car running with a speed governor, the servers are not yet operating at full potential. Add to this the everincreasing cost of power and cooling in the data center, and you’ve got a very un-green, costly situation.
> Green is Moving to the Data Center
To stay competitive, enterprises are quickly finding ways to cut costs and increase business agility. Though the green movement of yore suggests sacrificing what you want for what you need, in today’s business, staying atop the heap means getting what you want and what you need at the same time. This could translate into deploying the applications you need to run your business while leveraging hardware to its full potential.
|Table 1: Machine Driver Pack Pricing|
|Subscription Type||Number of Virtual Machines||Price|
|One-year Subscription||Up to four virtual machines per physical server||US$299|
|One-year Subscription||Unlimited virtual machines per physical server||US$699|
|Three-year Subscription||Up to four virtual machines per physical server||US$749|
|Three-year Subscription||Unlimited virtual machines per physical server||US$1,749|
|* If a physical machine is being used to host virtual servers, where paravirtualized drivers from the Driver Pack are being used, the physical machine must have a Driver Pack subscription|
Are you interested in getting better utilization out of your server hardware? Virtualization could be the answer. Are you interested in getting better performance out of your virtualized environment? Consider Virtual Machine Driver Pack, available as an add-on to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and enjoy greater speed and performance in your data center.
To understand the value of the Virtual Machine Driver Pack requires insight into virtualization and its many flavors. Let’s have a quick review.
Around since the 1960s, virtualization is a technique for hiding the physical characteristics of computing resources from the way other systems (end users and applications) interact with those resources. This includes making a single physical resource, such as a server, appear to function as multiple logical resources, in other words, multiple servers.
Let’s say you have several old Windows 2000 servers running legacy applications in your data center, but you’d like to upgrade the hardware. You can run the same workload inside a Windows 2000 virtual machine, on a new physical machine, alongside multiple other unmodified operating systems, which are called virtual machines. Running additional virtual machines on one box better utilizes the resources of your physical machine letting you run more servers on less hardware.
The benefits of virtualization are plenty and sound like a page out of the green handbook. Reduce power and cooling costs, reclaim rack space (no more server sprawl) and recycle physical machines to virtual machines.
> Full Virtualization
Historically, enterprises have relied heavily on full virtualization on the x86 platform. Full virtualization is a virtualization technique that completely simulates the physical machine; the entire system’s resources are being abstracted. In essence, this means there’s a bit of tom-foolery going on between the Xen hypervisor and the virtual machine running on the server. Namely, the virtual machine doesn’t know it’s virtual. It thinks it’s the only OS running on the server and expects to access all the resources it wants, when it wants them. Note that full virtualization in Xen does require virtualization extensions from Intel and AMD.
This charade creates a heap of extra work for the hypervisor. Each operation performed in a particular virtual machine must be kept within that virtual machine. No virtual operation can modify the state of any other virtual machine, the control program or the hardware. To keep this from happening, the hypervisor has to micromanage the virtual machine, intercepting and simulating privileged operations such as I/O instructions.
A significant benefit to full virtualization is flexibility; nearly all operating systems can be virtualized leveraging this form of virtualization. The downside to full virtualization is slow network and disk I/O. All the additional work placed on the hypervisor also causes significant slowing. Running several full virtual machines on one piece of hardware can be more cost efficient but you should expect a significant performance penalty (typically around 30 percent).
Paravirtualization, a more efficient method of virtualization, emerged with the invention of the Xen hypervisor. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP1 comes bundled with Xen and is one of just a few newer operating systems instrumented to be Xen-aware—where the Xen hypervisor and the guest operating system better cooperate to obtain near-native performance when running virtually.
Unlike full virtualization where the entire system’s resources are abstracted, paravirtualization only abstracts a portion of the system’s resources, enabling a faster, more efficient virtual environment. Older operating systems can also be made paravirtual enabled; however, modifications must be made to redirect virtualizationsensitive operations directly to the hypervisor instead of trapping to it as done in pure hardware virtualization. NetWare 6.5 SP7 is an example of this.
> Full Virtualization with Paravirtual Device Drivers
With full virtualization, you get the flexibility of running multiple virtual machines on one piece of hardware, but there’s that pesky performance penalty. With paravirtualization comes high performance, but few operating systems are equipped to take advantage of it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the best of both virtual worlds? This is where the Virtual Machine Driver Pack (VMDP) comes in to play. VMDP lends the performance benefits of paravirtualization and the flexibility of full virtualization.
Much like plugging in a high-performance chip in a car, VMDP is a collection of drivers that, when installed on Xen virtual machines, extract the best performance from your physical hardware. VMDP is a subscription-based bundle of paravirtualized network, bus and block drivers that allow you to run fully virtualized Windows and Linux workloads with significantly enhanced speed.
Installing the device drivers opens up additional channels of communication between the Xen hypervisor and the unmodified guest operating system running in a virtual environment—enabling them to work together more efficiently, and without the overhead imposed by emulating the entire system’s resources.
VMDP device drivers enable a full virtual machine to access paravirtual devices like Network Interface Cards (NIC) and block devices—devices it is otherwise unable to access—tapping into the full capabilities of the underlying physical machine.
> Forever Green
Green means cutting through the hype and looking at the final outcome, so take your time getting that hybrid car or replacing your Fruit of the Loom with hemp and bamboo.
But there is one step toward being green you’ll want to take right away—a step toward a green data center. Virtualization is not a trend. And it’s more than a corporate initiative. It’s a better, more efficient way to manage your data center allowing you to consolidate where possible and increase utilization. The Virtual Machine Driver Pack expands your ability for efficiency, much like a car equipped with a high-performance chip getting you closer and closer to running your data center at full potential.
SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack offers device drivers for Windows Server 2003 (32-bit and 64- bit), Windows 2000 (32-bit) and Windows XP (32-bit and 64-bit). Paravirtualized drivers for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server are distributed under an open source license and are included in both SP1 physical and electronic media. Paravirtualized drivers for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 SP3 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux will be available at the end of 2007.