Kevin Epstein, VP of Marketing for Scalent Systems, and I enjoyed a wonderful, rambling discussion of virtualization and what Scalent is doing. The company has developed a new catch phrase, "server re-purposing", to describe their ability to, in their words,
Scalent's Virtual Operating Environment (V/OE) software lets you rapidly change which servers are running, what software stacks your servers are running, and how those servers are connected to network and storage, without needing to make physical machine, cable, LAN connection or SAN access changes.
What does this really mean? I'm glad you asked. It means that Scalent has developed a way to insert code in between the hardware and the operating systems as it is booting and convince the operating system that it is running on a node with a specific IP address and using specific network and storage hardware even though it may not really be on that specific machine, using that network or that storage subsystem.
What good is this interesting technical exercise? It means that it would be possible to load a machine with a new stack of software very quickly from a template, monitor the operations of that machine and others and then quiesce that machine and load something else just as quickly. This means that it would be possible to reconfigure the data center network whenever any of the following things occur:
- An outage due to hardware failure, software failure, network failure or storage failure
- Service level agreements are not being met for any reason
- It's time for routine maintenance and it must be scheduled at an inopportune moment (as if there are good moments for routine maintenance in an "always on" world)
- Production needs more machine resources to support intense workloads
- Quality control needs to test a new operating system, development tool, application framework or application
- Some sort of disaster occurs including plumbing leaking, the popcorn catching fire in the microwave and the fire suppression equipment deciding it was time to start spaying the machine room with water, or what have you
Although this sounds a bit like something BEA, Cassatt, DataSynapse, Microsoft, Opsware or VMware might say, Scalent is doing this at a much lower level. In fact, if one visits the Scalent Partner Page, most of these folks are partners of Scalent and are using Scalent's technology along side of their own.
I remember speaking with representatives of this company years ago while I was at IDC and being confused about what they were really offering. They were using the same catch phrases and buzz words as others in the industry. I just couldn't understand why organizations would come to Scalent when people like HP, IBM and Microsoft seemed to be saying the same things. Kevin and his time are to be applauded for making the message clear, simple and understandable.