Last year at VMworld I noted Xsigo Systems, a small privately held company at VMworld showing their I/O Director technology, which delivereda subset of HP Virtual Connect or Cisco UCS I/O virtualization capability in a fashion that could be consumed by legacy rack-mount servers from any vendor. I/O Director connects to the server with one or more 10 G Ethernet links, and then splits traffic out into enterprise Ethernet and FC networks. On the server side, the applications, including VMware, see multiple virtual NICs and HBAs courtesy of Xsigo’s proprietary virtual NIC driver.

Controlled via Xsigo’s management console, the server MAC and WWNs can be programmed, and the servers can now connect to multiple external networks with fewer cables and substantially lower costs for NIC and HBA hardware. Virtualized I/O is one of the major transformative developments in emerging data center architecture, and will remain a theme in Forrester’s data center research coverage.

This year at VMworld, Xsigo announced a major expansion of their capabilities – Xsigo Server Fabric, which takes the previous rack-scale single-Xsigo switch domains and links them into a data-center-scale fabric. Combined with improvements in the software and UI, Xsigo now claims to offer one-click connection of any server resource to any network or storage resource within the domain of Xsigo’s fabric. Most significantly, Xsigo’s interface is optimized to allow connection of VMs to storage and network resources, and to allow the creation of private VM-VM links.

As with every vendor in the known universe, Xsigo is touting their wares as compatible with, nay, even essential to, the creation of cloud infrastructures. However, in the case of Xsigo, they do offer a unique way to layer essential network and I/O virtualization on top of legacy or other non-CI infrastructure, and as such, merits the consideration of anyone requiring these capabilities but unable or unwilling to commit to a CI infrastructure offering such those offered by Cisco, HP or IBM.

The drawbacks and risks? Primarily those of dealing with a small company – based on interviews with users, I am satisfied that the product works, but Xsigo is a small, privately held company, albeit with an impressive roster of venture backers including Kleiner-Perkins and Greylock and an impressive board, but still represents some risk in terms of longevity and investment momentum. At a rough guess I would estimate their revenues at between $8 and $15 million per year.

I’d be interested in hearing from any Xsigo users or prospective users.