VMware gears itself up for heterogeneity
In early October 2012 VMware held its European annual conference in Barcelona, Spain, following its US-based conference in August. The company did not make any big announcements, only a few updates (VMware vCloud Connector 2.0, VMware vCenter Operations Management Suite 5.6, and vFabric Application Director 5.0) and the repackaging of recently acquired (July 2012) DynamicOps technology as vCloud Automation Center 5.1. However, behind the scenes, momentous things are happening and VMware is gearing itself up to deal with heterogeneity at two levels: product design, and management of third-party systems.
Internal product heterogeneity requires a redesign of VMwareâ€™s offering
In the past few years, VMware has moved from offering standalone products to bundling these products into â€śsolutionsâ€ť or â€śsuitesâ€ť. As the result of a number of acquisitions, third-party technology, such as that of DynamicOps, is increasingly part of these solutions. This means an increasing set of overlapping capabilities, from application stores, to management, analytics, metering capabilities, and others.
The challenge for VMware in the next few years is to extract these different capabilities into individual components that can be more easily mixed and matched into solutions than the products VMware currently markets. This will require a drastic redesign of the companyâ€™s portfolio of products, and some will disappear. For example, vCloud director is likely to be merged into vCenter, and new suites will come to light.
This product redesign story is as important as the data center redesign story that is all about abstracting/virtualizing network and storage resources (in addition to compute resources) that VMware encapsulates in its new â€śsoftware-defined data centerâ€ť catchphrase. The product redesign process has, however, barely started. vCenter 5.0, for example, features a new, independent inventory service, which in time will become an independent component for use in a variety of solutions. Based on the fact that VMware has a good approach to integrating third-party products with its own, based on open, documented APIs, Ovum is relatively confident that VMware will get this redesign right, but that it will take the best part of the next five years to do so.
External heterogeneity has barely started to be dealt with
Not so long ago in Cannes, France, where it held its 2008 and 2009 VMware Europe conferences, VMware painted a vision of wall-to-wall VMware-centric data centers that was not particularly convincing. This vision is gone, and has been replaced by a much more pragmatic acknowledgement that the data center world is a heterogeneous one. However, as with product redesign, VMware has barely started to come to terms with this reality.
In May 2011, for example, VMware Labs released a free technology preview plugin called vCenter XVP Manager and Converter that allowed vCenter to manage Microsoft Hyper-V servers in addition to VMware ESX and ESXi servers. The latest vCenter version directly supports this capability but cannot compare with the third-party HotLink platform that extends VMware vCenter to support not only Hyper-V, but also KVM and XenServer technologies, as well as CloudStack private and public cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS) EC2 public cloud. It is, however, a first step.
vCenter can now also monitor the health of AWS EC2-based VMware virtual machines. Similarly, the new DynamicOps technology-based vCloud Automation Center 5.1 and the latest update of vFabric Application director, both announced at the VMware Europe 2012 conference, support AWS EC2. These AWS capabilities are, however, patchy (Automation Center and App Director also support AWS EBS, while vCenter only supports EC2) and not integrated (no central dashboard to manage AWS), but again, these are interesting first steps. In addition, via its acquisition of Nicira, VMware is now involved in supporting the networking capabilities of OpenStack, the open-source infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform that many vendors would like to use as an alternative, or at least complement, to both AWS and VMware clouds.
In addition to developing and integrating third-party cloud-management capabilities, VMware needs to articulate its strategy much more clearly than it currently does. At the moment, it does not talk about these developments enough, and when it does it is too much in terms of product-level features rather than painting a bigger strategy-level picture. Nevertheless, Ovumâ€™s understanding is that the ultimate objective is for VMware to reach out to other public clouds, such as Microsoft Azure, in addition to other hypervisor technologies, including Xen and KVM. With VMware-initiated Cloud Foundry, the multi-cloud picture is much clearer at PaaS level. Cloud Foundry-based AppFog, for example, currently runs on AWS and offers a public beta on Rackspace, and private betas on Microsoft Azure and HP OpenStack.
The VMware cloud federation is still a long way away
At VMware Europe 2012 the company introduced vCloud Connector bridge 2.0, which enables customers to transfer VMs and applications across vSphere and vCloud Director private cloud environments as well as public clouds from VMware vCloud Service Providers. It also announced that OVH.com had joined the exclusive club of certified vCloud Datacenter Service Provider. There are nine altogether, up from four at launch in 2010 (versus about 120 partners certified as vCloud Powered). However, it will take some time for vCloud Datacenter Service Providers to partner with one another and enable their customers to move workloads across multi-provider clouds, not just between private and public ones. Some have started to think about partnerships, but none has yet actually acted.
Laurent Lachal, Senior Analyst, Ovum Software
Donâ€™t expect big changes from VMwareâ€™s new CEO (July 2012)
For VMware and Nicira, software trumps hardware (July 2012)
Citrix Redefines Its IaaS Cloud Strategy (July 2012)
VMware vCenter: Product Overview (August 2011)
VMware Cloud Foundry: A Promising, If Limited, Second Attempt at PaaS (May 2011)
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