VMware seeks to virtualize the entire data center with vCloud Suite 5.1

New virtualization suite aims to bring organizations a step closer to the software-defined data center

In an aggressive bid to rule the emerging software-defined data center (SDDC), VMware unveiled at VMworld today its vCloud Suite 5.1, which is aimed at extending virtualization beyond servers and storage to the network. The vCloud Suite 5.1 software bundle comprises the latest versions of vCloud Director and vSphere (and more), equipping admins with a single GUI through which they can provision and deploy virtual data center containers.

Although a mere dot-one release, vCloud Suite 5.1 adds some compelling features to help organizations realize the SDDC vision of a fully abstracted data center that doesn't care about the physical location of servers, storage gear, or networking hardware. Instead, an SDDC automatically draws from pools of disparate infrastructure resources -- whether in different racks or an entirely different data center --- to ensure application and service requirements are consistently being met.

Among vCloud Suite's most interesting features is its virtual networking capabilities (via vSphere 5.1), which represent a potentially disruptive game-changer for network admins, according to InfoWorld's Paul Venezia. "By configuring VXLANs, firewalls, and load balancers in VMware vSphere, you can create dozens of networks connecting hundreds of VMs, all without touching the switching configuration," he writes.

InfoWorld columnist Matt Prigge has highlighted some key features in the bundle, including "the ability to vMotion a virtual machine from one host's local storage to another without any downtime" in Hyper-V-like fashion. A number of new capabilities -- such as virtual machine replication, backup and recovery with data deduplication, and advanced virtual networking functions -- were previously available only from third parties. The risk here, as Prigge observes, is that VMware might be turning one-time partners into rivals as it encroaches on their territory. And InfoWorld columnist Dave Marshall notes that the vSphere component loses the unloved VRAM-based licensing change introduced a year; the "xTax" is gone as EMC reverts to its previous CPU-based license.

There's much ground to cover in VMware's announcement because it comprises so many products touching so many corners of the virtual data center. As noted, vCloud Suite 5.1 includes vSphere 5.1 and vCloud Director 5.1 -- along with the vCloud Networking and Security feature, Site Recovery Manager 5.1, vCloud APIs 5.1, vCenter Orchestrator 5.1, vFabric Application Director, and vCenter Operations Management Suite. Clearly, there's an abundance of moving parts here, and admins will have their work cut out for them as they gauge whether VMware has injected the suite with the necessary integration and intelligence for admins to keep their virtual data centers humming.

On the storage front, for example, vCloud Director builds on the storage profiles introduced in vSphere 5.0, which let users map a storage system's capabilities to a storage profile that can be used to ensure that a virtual machine or vApp is provisioned the appropriate class of storage.

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