VMware customers will soon be able to connect their private data centres to storage and processing pools provided externally by cloud vendors, and manage internal and external resources from within the same software console, the company has announced.
VMware's announcements continue its push for a Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS), a software layer that aggregates virtualised servers, storage and network resources into one big computing pool. VMware started talking about the VDC-OS last September and still has not announced a release date, but the company is providing further details on its capabilities this week.
VMware says end users should be able to provision their own virtual machines and applications in a "self-service" data centre that relies upon chargeback, configuration management, capacity planning, service catalogues and self-service portals.
Moreover, VMware's forthcoming technology will connect customer data centres to those of external cloud providers, letting them provision and manage all internal and external virtualised resources through the VMware Infrastructure client. Related to this public-private connection is a "vCloud" API that ensures interoperability across public cloud services - as long as they are built using VMware technology.
Rather than being an entirely new technology, the VDC-OS is mainly a new way of thinking about the capabilities of virtualisation and how they might be extended throughout both public and private data centres, analysts say.
The VDC-OS is "more about marketing and getting people to think about the virtual infrastructure as the new operating system, and virtual machines as being application containers," says Burton Group analyst Chris Wolf. "VMware wants to lessen the relevance of the operating system and allow resource scheduling to be done by the virtualisation layer."
In a sense, VMware's VDC-OS is already on the market, since it simply aggregates all of their existing products, says Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Bowker. The technology upgrades VMware is discussing this week could be available in the second quarter, Bowker says, when the company is expected to launch VMware Infrastructure 4, the next version of its core platform which includes the ESX Server, high availability software, backup technology, dynamic scheduling, live migration and other components.
VMware's Dan Chu, vice president of emerging products and markets, says the nation's economic problems are pushing customers toward VMware's core propositions of increasing utilisation of existing IT resources and doing so in a way that quickly deploys new computing capacity to end users.
"Especially in this economic climate, people are ready for a change," Chu says. "They're frustrated by the amount of IT spend and maintenance. Customers are ready for computing as a service ... IT that's available on demand."
The vCloud API, which is in private release for service providers and software vendors, allows applications to be moved from private data centres to external cloud services without being rewritten. Companies that will provide cloud services with vCloud include SAVVIS, SunGard, Telefonica, Telstra and Terremark.
So far, VMware is saying that its various management tools will only work on top of the VMware hypervisor. In other words, physical servers and servers virtualised by Microsoft, Citrix or any other vendor will not be compatible with the VDC-OS.
In an interview last month, VMware's Bogomil Balkansky, director of product marketing, insisted that competing virtualisation technologies have not gained enough adoption to make them worth supporting.
"We really have no religion about managing or not managing other hypervisors," he says. "If and when we see a substantial footprint of any other hypervisor, we're open to doing that."
But ultimately, true interoperability will have to include multiple hypervisors, not just VMware's, Bowker says. With cheaper hypervisors available from the likes of Microsoft and Citrix, even customers who swear by VMware may want to use less expensive virtualisation platforms for certain purposes, such as application staging, he says.
"It has to have the flexibility to deploy across multiple hypervisors," Bowker says. "Why put a staging environment on expensive virtualisation infrastructure?"
Still, Wolf says VMware has come a long way in understanding the requirements of joining its virtualisation technology to services offered by cloud vendors. The analyst cited the vendor's VMsafe security technology as well as its latest announcements on cloud interoperability.
"Some of their early presentations on public cloud were a joke," Wolf says. "Public cloud sounds good on paper but there are many compliance and security issues. ... VMware is actively engaged on those issues, and they have to be."
VMware also provided an update on its bare-metal desktop hypervisor, which is due out the second half of this year. VMware CVP (Client Virtualisation Platform), which was demonstrated last fall, is being optimised for Intel vPro, a technology for PCs that enhances security, manageability and remote maintenance. The partnership is not exclusive, so VMware could potentially make a similar announcement with AMD at some point.