Virtensys recently visited the Phoenix ATNG group and really put on a show of their virtual I/O solution that just makes sense. I was lucky enough to be invited to this event thanks to Matt Mancini, former Phoenix VMUG moderator and current ATNG founder. Virtensys was represented by Stephen Spellicy, Director of Channel Marketing and Tracy Edwards, Systems Technical Marketing guru. To understand the success of Virtensys’s presentation you have to first understand what ATNG is all about. Advanced Technology Networking Group (ATNG) is all about deep dive, highly technical, geek speak, minus the marketing/sales pitch (aka. “death by slides”). These meetings are heavy on the technical side and light on the marketing fluff. Virtensys represented exactly what ATNG wanted out of a presenter which put them light years ahead of the other virtual I/O vendor present at the meeting. What stood out about both Stephen and Tracy was their deep knowledge of their product, which was very impressive. Unfortunately the allotted hour and a half slot Virtensys had just wasn’t enough to get to all of the benefits of their virtual I/O solution. Furthermore, they brought a mini lab that enabled us to play with the product and gain hands on experience with Virtensys, this was also something their counterpart did not offer.

Who is Virtensys?
Virtensys was founded in 2005, a fairly young company with an impressive portfolio of solutions. The focus of Virtensys is to simplify the way server administrators provision I/O connectivity to a standard rack mount server. Their products only exist for rack mounted servers, virtually enabling each server to act as a blade server within a rack acting as the blade chassis. Virtensys has forged a partnership with the top technology leaders in hypervisors, operating systems, storage platforms, processors and virtual I/O adapter manufacturers such as VMware, Microsoft, NetApp, Intel, QLogic and LSI.

To better explain just exactly what I/O virtualization is and how it works, watch the video below. Stephen Spellicy explains I/O virtualization to David Davis at VMware Partner Exchange 2011.

The Case for I/O Virtualization
The systems administrators in us all have experienced the headache of having to present a change to their network. Simply having to wire a new network or storage device presents a physically complex situation where you have to trace cables from end to end which can take up valuable hours of our time in the rack. When we get the hardware and have traced every connection we needed to find, we then have to account for outage and the wrath of a scorned end-user. Even with all of that out of the way, you still have to sync up with the storage team, network guys and management on ensuring all goes as planned. This is a situation that could take a week or more. Enter Virtensys and their I/O virtualization appliance. Virtensys’ I/O virtualization technology allows for each server connection to be presented with a two virtualized 10GbE and 4/8 GB FC HBAs. This reduces the complexity of cabling from 4 to 1, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause.

The VIO-4000 Series
Virtensys offers a series of virtual I/O appliances, the VIO-4001, 4004, and 4008. The VIO-4001 is a 10 Gbps Ethernet and 8 Gbps FC I/O Virtualization Appliance with 8 PCIe server connection ports, 2 dual port ethernet NICs, 2 FC SAN connection ports, hot swappable fans and redundant PSUs all in a 2U form factor. The VIO-4004 specs are virtually (no pun intended) the same as the VIO-4001 minus the 8Gbps FC connectivity. It has the same 2U form factor but provides 80 Gbps Ethernet uplink bandwidth to up to 16 total servers, compared to the 40Gbps that the 4001 provides.

The VIO-4008 I/O virtualization appliance makes everything easier. It manages to consolidate and virtualize network and local storage connectivity to a rack of servers and provides up to 40 Gbps of Ethernet uplink bandwidth and up to 16 TB of local RAID storage connectivity to the connected servers. It has 8 PCIe server connection ports, 2 dual port ethernet NICs and 2 FC SAN connection ports, 2 hot swappable fans and redundant PSUs. Unlike both the 4001 and 4004 virtual appliances, the 4008 provides 12 Gbps of SAS/SATA RAID capability (up to 16 TBs total using 2 TB disks) to servers. This is also all contained in a 2U form factor, which keeps the rack presence limited.

How About Management?
The hardware is beautiful, no doubt, but what about managing what goes on inside the box?? Enter Virtensys Management Software Suite (VMS). VMS offers a simple web interface created with the server administrator in mind to allow them to remotely provision LAN, SAN and DAS connectivity to the servers in their datacenter. Furthermore, VMS is designed to enable IT administrators to monitor, manage and make changes to their server connectivity. VMS is also configured to be accessed via the CLI and APIs, which is great for all of you CLI power users. Screenshots don’t really do this software justice, below is a video demonstration of VMS and is a must see.

My thanks to Stephen Spellicy and Tracy Edwards for making the trip out to Phoenix to share their product with us, it was highly informative and very enjoyable, it left me wanting more, we may have to have them back for a repeat ATNG presentation, and thanks for not killing us with marketing slides and analyst quotes. Much appreciated. If you are looking for a solution to bring I/O virtualization into your datacenter, look at Virtensys. The only drawback I can think of would be if you are a blade guy, this is not your solution as it is only for rack mounted servers. Overall, it’s a great solution compared to other virtual I/O solutions, your rebuttals and comments are welcomed.

Greg W Stuart
Greg is the owner and editor of He's been a VMware vExpert every year since 2011. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids. He works as a Sr. Consultant at VMware and resides in Northern Virginia, 15 minutes west of Washington DC.

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