Today's announcement of VMware vSphere 4 proved once again that I'm a sucker for futuristic-sounding technology. As soon as I saw the tag line "the industry's first cloud operating system," I was off. Whoa! They've done it! An OS-like layer that spans an entire datacenter of servers and lets you scale and allocate resources like Google, everyone's favorite model of IT nirvana!
Then I took a couple of deep breaths. Operating system? How could it be an operating system? That would mean people would have to write applications for a virtual machine, so you must still need to install operating systems on top of vSphere 4. So calling vSphere 4 an OS must be...a metaphor?
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Well then, certainly, there must be some other huge breakthrough. Like no longer having to manage server instances as you scale? I asked our resident virtualization oracle, Executive Editor Doug Dineley, about that and he answered...no. You still gotta do that.
While vSphere 4 is an admirable addition to the VMware line, it does not represent the kind of paradigm shift that would warrant the description "cloud operating system." If you wanted to be really charitable, you could say that virtualization (or some other scheme that transforms physical machines into virtual compute resources) is fundamental to creating a "private cloud." And vSphere 4 certainly makes rolling out virtualization easier. But an OS? Nope.