SoftIron rolls its own server virt stack to join the 'let's get VMware' crowd

Banks on allowing BYO external storage to make migrations less painful

Artisanal server vendor SoftIron smells blood in the water since Broadcom's acquisition of VMware led to considerable price hikes for many users, so has developed an alternative server virtualization platform whose key selling point is the ability to run with existing external storage hardware.

SoftIron's offering is called VM Squared and is based on the KVM hypervisor – a module for the Linux kernel. VM Squared is therefore essentially a Linux distro tailored to run as server virtualization infrastructure.

The developer did something similar when it created Hypercloud – a turnkey platform built to run on the software-defined storage boxes on which SoftIron made its name, plus the servers it builds with an auditable bill of materials to satisfy clients with very particular security requirements that both hardware and firmware can be traced to their origin. Hypercloud can also run on commodity hardware, if required.

VM Squared does everything you'd expect of a server virtualization platform: it allows creation and management of VMs across a pool of hardware, allows service providers to create multitenant rigs, permits migration of VMs between hosts without disruption, and lets users manage it with an appliance designed to be mighty secure.

SoftIron chief operating officer Jason Van der Schyff told The Register it can also run on the same hardware VMware users employ for their current rigs – including any external storage.

Allowing use of external storage is, Van der Schyff reckons, a winner for two reasons.

One is that hyperconverged platforms touting themselves as new homes for VMware quitters will usually require migration to software-defined storage, which adds expense.

"If you are sitting on a vSphere estate today, you have very few places to go that are not transformative if you have external storage," he told The Register.

The other is that Van der Schyff believes hardware buying cycles have fallen out of synch in many orgs. Lock-step upgrades of servers and storage were once the norm, he suggested, but are now less common. Throw in the fact that many VMware migrations will be unwanted and unwelcome, and he feels that buyers will be willing to adopt a new server virtualization platform – but too stretched to upgrade storage at the same time.

SoftIron has only around 100 employees, and in recent years has added servers and a cloud platform to its range of software-defined storage boxes. VM Squared means it is now tending a pair of platforms and two hardware ranges – a lot for any org, never mind one of SoftIron’s modest size.

Van der Schyff told The Register the specialist will rely on its channel to do much of the heavy lifting, but that there's enough overlap between HyperCloud and VM Squared that its own support crew won't be stretched when asked to support the new platform. ®

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