VMware road map emphasizes manageability

As the company reveals its 2009 plans at the annual VMworld conference, competitors are already snapping to attention

As VMware kicks off its annual VMworld conference, the company is announcing a product road map for 2009 that moves beyond the virtualization of individual servers to a holistic management approach encompassing all the virtualized servers and storage in a datacenter.

VMware Monday plans to take the wraps off its new Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS), which aggregates virtualized servers, storage, and network resources into one big computing pool that serves up computing resources to applications, providing a better level of availability and scalability.

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VMware also is expected to preview new desktop virtualization technology and partnerships with more than 100 service providers that will offer Internet-based computing clouds enabled by VMware's hypervisor.

Since VMware fired co-founder and CEO Diane Greene in July, "there have been a lot of questions about 'hey, what happens now,'" says VMware product vice president Raghu Raghuram. "This is a pretty significant array of new products. It's a sign we're stepping on the gas pedal here even as the rest of the industry just tries to bring out basic virtualization."

Competitors aren't sitting on their hands, though. Microsoft has announced that it will ship System Center Virtual Machine Manager software this year to help users configure and deploy virtual machines, and Citrix is upgrading its main XenServer product line and introducing a new cloud initiative.

VMware is comparing its VDC-OS to a server operating system. While it wouldn't replace a server operating system, the goal is to do for the virtual datacenter what a traditional operating system does for one piece of hardware.

With VDC-OS it will be easier to dynamically increase capacity, share resources among applications and avoid downtime, Raghuram says. In the event a single piece of hardware or software fails, the VDC-OS will automatically route traffic around failure points so that applications are not affected.

Just as with previous VMware products, VDC-OS will not manage physical hardware that has not been virtualized. Even though rival Microsoft's System Center can manage both physical and virtual systems, VMware has decided that customers can use software like IBM Tivoli or HP OpenView to manage purely physical servers and storage, says Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Bowker.

"That's a smart move," Bowker says. "They don't need to become managers of the physical environment as well. Their expertise is in the virtual environment."

But as virtualization grows more popular, "the virtualized data center is going to be the real datacenter," Raghuram predicts.

The Virtual Datacenter Operating System, part of the VMware Infrastructure product line, will ship sometime in 2009, but VMware isn't saying exactly when.

VMware is also using the high-profile VMworld stage to introduce vCloud, an initiative that partners VMware with more than 100 service providers -- such as Savvis, Verizon, AT&T, Rackspace, and British Telecom -- who are using VMware's technology to offer Internet-based computing clouds

VCloud "will connect internal data centers and external service provider offerings together seamlessly, enabling enterprises to adopt cloud-based services," VMware says. Disaster recovery, infrastructure-as-a-service or an increase in capacity are among the potential use cases.

Say an enterprise is running out of space in its datacenter, and wants to move an application to the cloud -- one of these third-party providers would host the application, and make the cloud datacenter appear as a natural extension of the customer's in-house datacenter.

While cloud computing often refers to server and storage resources being delivered over the Internet, Raghuram says VMware is taking a broader view. Both vCloud and the Virtual Datacenter Operating System are aimed at providing enterprises cloud-like services both over the Internet and internally over an intranet. The VDC-OS, for example, not only aggregates internal resources but allows them to be connected to third-party cloud services.

Raghuram says he thinks of cloud computing as having three defining properties. They are elastic, expanding and shrinking as needs change. They are accessible remotely as a service, and they can run any application, he says.

A third major piece of VMware's 2009 road map involves a new desktop virtualization capability called vClient. While VMware already offers desktop virtualization, the goal now is to give users offline access to their desktops while also providing centralized management that can handle every desktop the same way, says VMware desktop product vice president Jeff Jennings. Desktop products called vClient and VMware View will enable the centralized management as well as desktops personalized for each user.

Citrix's virtualization division is also announcing new capabilities on Monday. The Citrix Cloud Center product line is a mix of hardware and virtualization software designed to help service providers build cloud computing capabilities and deliver them over the Internet.

"We are selling products to cloud vendors who are building infrastructure service clouds or Web application clouds," Citrix CTO of virtualization Simon Crosby says.

Citrix is also announcing XenServer 5, the latest edition of its flagship virtualization software, based on the open source Xen hypervisor. XenServer 5 expands support for storage arrays, and has high availability features that automate recovery from server failures by detecting faults and moving virtual machines upon failure, and ensuring that high-priority workloads are restarted first.

This story, "VMware road map emphasizes manageability" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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