VMware, Citrix Take Virtualization To The Cloud


VMware and Citrix are separately taking server virtualization technology to the next level with the addition of high availability, storage-friendly features, and the ability to move server virtualization into the cloud.

Both vendors, rivals with each other and both looking over their shoulders at the recent release of Microsoft's Hyper-V technology, used Monday's opening of the VMworld 2008 conference to introduce major additions to their product lines.

The introductions were not unexpected given the need to keep ahead of the technology curve and ahead of Microsoft, said Scott Miller, president of Server Centric, a St. Louis-based solution provider specializing in virtualized infrastructures and partner to both VMware and Citrix.

"The hypervisor is continuing to evolve and adopt," Miller said. "The market is early."

The push to virtualize the cloud-based data center and harden the virtual environment shows a combination of maturity and market reaction on the part of the two vendors, Miller said.

"The technologies are both maturing," he said. "But it's a lot about reacting to the launch of Hyper-V. Microsoft doesn't have the ability to play in the cloud. So this separates them from Microsoft."

VMware is taking advantage of VMworld, which was originally founded by the company but which has since became a virtualization industry event, to introduce three major virtualization initiatives, said Raghu Raghuram, vice president of products and solutions for the company.

The first is VMware's Virtual Data Center OS, or VDC-OS, a roadmap for expanding VMware technology into a cloud-based virtual data center with a combination of virtual servers, storage, and networking, Raghuram said.

The VDC-OS is aimed both at helping companies build internal cloud computing infrastructures and at helping third-party service providers build external cloud computing infrastructures, Raghuram said.

It is being developed as many companies have adopted virtualization technologies to handle upwards of 50 percent of their infrastructures, he said.

"VDC-OS manages the resources of the virtual data center with the same efficiency as large physical data centers," he said. "Eventually, there will be more than just VMware offering this ability. This is the future of virtualization."

One of the foundations of VDC-OS is Application vServices, which provides availability, security, and scalability to customer applications in a virtual environment, Raghuram said.

Availability is provided by VMware Fault Tolerance, which ensures that an application suffers no downtime, he said. In the event of a hardware failure, an application resumes on different hardware at the same point it failed, with no downtime, he said. No clustering of customer hardware is required for this capability, he said.

VMware's Take On Data Recovery, Security And Scalability

Availability is also ensured via VMware Data Recovery, which provides quick and simple backup and recovery for all applications, he said.

Security of the applications in the virtual environment comes from VMware VMsafe, which Raghuram said monitors virtual machines to detect and stop previously undetectable viruses, rootkits, and malware.

For scalability of applications, VMware is also introducing the ability to hot-add virtual CPU, memory, and network devices to virtual machines, as well as the ability to configure very large virtual machines with up to eight virtual CPUs and 256 Gbytes of RAM, he said.

VMware is also providing VDC-OS with Infrastructure vServices on which to run customer applications.

New with VDC-OS is thin provisioning of data storage which reduces the amount of physical capacity needed to address even higher amounts of virtual storage needed for customer data and to store virtual machine files, Raghuram said. VMware also introduced the ability to link clones of virtual machines so that a particular virtual machine is only stored once, he said.

VMware also introduced the vNetwork Distributed Switch, which aggregates network configurations to the datacenter level to enable third parties such as Cisco to provide virtual machine-level enforcement of quality-of-service and customer policies, he said.

Virtual compute, storage, and networking capabilities are managed by a new application, vCloud, which enables them to be used as part of a cloud infrastructure, Raghuram said.

VMware hasn't forgotten the applications, Raghuram said. The company unveiled vApp, which allows customers to turn their applications into self-managing applications that run on virtual infrastructures. vApp encapsulates all components of a multi-tier application as well as the associated policies and service levels.

Most applications such as CRM applications run on multiple servers, including application, database, and file servers, Raghuram said. "vApp deploys those servers, handles the backups, moves them from point to point, and allocates resources," he said. "The infrastructure will run the application based on the application."

Management of those applications is handled by five new products that integrate with management software from companies like BMC and IBM, Raghuram said. They include tools to handle application performance, configuration, orchestration, and chargebacks, he said.

The second major VMware initiative is vCloud, which lets hosted service providers host customer applications. Under the initiative, VMware is providing the software and tools to help customers who either need a second data center or who need temporary capacity increases and can run their applications in the cloud, Raghuram said.

The third initiative is VMware View, which builds on VMware's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure to expand the concept of virtual desktop PCs to any client device, said Jerry Chen, VMware senior director of enterprise desktop products.

"The desktop of the future is not a Dell or an IBM PC," Chen said. "It will be a combination of Gmail, Salesforce.com, and so on. So the device will follow the user who can access their desktop from wherever they want to."

VMware View Becomes Clearer

VMware View, which is expected to be available next year, gives users flexibility to access their desktop from wherever they are while allowing IT managers to centralize the management of those virtual desktops and control the infrastructure, Chen said.

Next year, VMware plans to formally introduce the concept with its "universal client," which allows customers' desktops to be accessed through any device including smart phones, Chen said.

Citrix on Monday unveiled several additions to its new XenServer 5.0 server virtualization platform similar to those of VMware.

The first is high availability for virtual workloads that make sure those workloads which for some reason lock up can be automatically restarted, said David Roussain, vice president of Citrix's Virtualization and Management Division.

"If a host server workload crashes, it automatically restarts on another host," Roussain said. "Customers can assign priority so that if a host goes down, the applications are restarted in order of their priority."

The high availability function was co-developed with Marathon Technologies, a developer of technology for developing fault-tolerant physical and virtual servers, said Jerry Malmick, Marathon CTO.

Citrix and Marathon developed the technology to attach multiple host servers in a pool so that virtual machines can be migrated to another host if a problem is detected, Malmick said.

Basic high availability capabilities will come standard with the new XenServer 5.0, and customers can upgrade to component-level fault tolerance to keep applications running in case of a network I/O or a hard drive failure, or even to full fault-tolerant capabilities, Malmick said.

XenServer 5.0 also has the ability to work with third-party disaster recovery software to allow virtual workloads to be rerouted to remote sites and be available in case of a disaster, Roussain said.

Citrix is also expanding storage support so that XenServer 5.0 now supports standards-based storage regardless of whether they are direct-attach, NAS, or iSCSI or Fibre Channel SAN, he said. The changes include the ability to connect to existing storage infrastructures and to use advanced functions in storage arrays such as replication and cloning.

Citrix on Monday also unveiled Citrix Deliver Center Cloud edition, which includes consumption-based pricing that allows customers to purchase XenServer based on the number of virtual machines that have been moved to a cloud computing infrastructure, Roussain said.

"We provide the infrastructure to cloud vendors to handle the connection between the cloud and the customer," he said. "Citrix already has 200,000 customers who use Citrix technology, and we can connect them to the cloud now. We can build a seamless, end-to-end system so they can move their infrastructures to the cloud."

For example, Roussain said, customers will eventually be able to drag and drop a server workload to the cloud. "That's the vision," he said. "We are the best-able to make that happen. We do it in the enterprise today. We want to provide it to the cloud."

All the capabilities except the ability to drag-and-drop server workloads to the cloud are available now, and Cisco already has about 50 customers who can provide the cloud-related services.

Roussain said that the cloud computing initiative is not really a channel play. Instead, he said, solution providers will provide services to customers to access the cloud. "There are lots of opportunities for channel partners to provide servers and the connectivity to help make customers cloud-enabled," he said.