VMware Outlines Cloud Vision, Previews vSphere, At Partner Conference

The company also unveiled a new partner initiative aimed at making it easier for solution providers to work with its technology.

The partner summit is being held this year in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Rick Jackson, chief marketing officer of VMware, set the tone for the conference by talking about VMware's four primary focuses going forward.

The first is getting customers 100 percent virtualized as a prelude to helping them take advantage of cloud computing, including introducing them to the company's new vSphere family of products.

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The vSphere line, details of which will be unveiled in the near future, is VMware's follow-up to its Virtual Infrastructure 3 (VI3) product line, and will include several new technologies for helping customers build internal compute clouds, access external compute clouds, and bring the two together in what VMware terms a "private cloud."

"With our new vSphere and its emphasis on automation and integration, there's no reason customers can't get 100 percent virtualized," Jackson said.

VMware's second focus is working with partners to help customers build cloud infrastructures.

The third is virtual desktops, which are a necessary component of getting customers into a 100 percent virtualized environment, Jackson said.

The fourth is working with partners, including solution providers and technology partners, to manage virtual platforms.

Jackson was followed by Tod Nielsen, VMware's new chief operating officer who, like his boss, VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz, was a former Microsoft executive. Nielsen most recently was chairman of Borland Software.

Nielsen said that 90 percent of VMware's revenue comes from its 22,000-plus partners worldwide, and that the company has more than 6,700 employees serving 130,000-plus customers.

Nielsen then discussed VMware's vision of what cloud computing is and is not.

It is not what many people think of when considering cloud computing, Nielsen said. "There's a belief that there will be three uber-clouds: Google, Amazon and Microsoft," he said.

Instead, he said, there will always remain a place for businesses, large and small, to have their own data centers. And those businesses will look to some type of external cloud in order to gain certain efficiencies or to handle computing peaks.

"But at the end of the day, what customers want are internal clouds, which have similar tools and resources as those available on external clouds," he said. "And they want a private cloud which allows them to have internal clouds while, at the same time, taking advantage of external clouds."

Nielsen offered a peek at VMware's upcoming vSphere family of products, which he said aggregates and coordinates the underlying resources of a business to provide scale and make it possible to build internal and external clouds.

VSphere is a foundation for treating virtualized workloads like an internal cloud, while extending them to an external cloud, Nielsen said.

He called vSphere a "cloud OS" in that it aggregates and coordinates the underlying resources to provide integrated availability and reliability with dynamic scalability. It also integrates policies and compliance as workloads travel through the compute resources pool, he said.

Nielsen also told solution providers to prepare for the upcoming wave of virtual desktop deployment.

There are about 500 million desktop PCs currently deployed in enterprises worldwide, he said. "And I have yet to meet an IT staff that likes them," he said.

However, Nielsen said, the key to virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, is to provision users with the right security, applications, and so on, and not just provision desktops. "Then whatever device the user wants to use, they can use," he said.

Throughout the rest of 2009, VMware plans to roll out a number of facets related to VDI, including centralized management, technology to take advantage of higher-bandwidth WANs, and new ways to improve the performance of high-definition video and 3D graphics over a LAN, Nielsen said.

"I believe that by 2012, our virtual desktop business is as big as our virtual server business," he said.

Nielsen's presentation was right on target in terms of how to help solution providers increase the performance of customers' IT infrastructures while cutting costs, said Pete Peterson, senior vice president and general manager of the Advanced Infrastructure Solutions (AIS) division of Tech Data.

"Their technology was built for that," Peterson said. "Despite the economy, if you have an environment built for virtualization, you can take advantage of it."

Rich Baldwin, CEO of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and VMware partner, said that VMware is still the virtualization leader and has the right strategy for helping customers move into the cloud.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done before the cloud is ready, either for customers or for their solution providers, Baldwin said.

"Large enterprise customers will have an internal cloud," Baldwin said. "But for the external cloud, it's like a few years ago when anyone talked about storage as a service. No way were any big guys going to let their data go outside the company. So the emphasis will be on the internal cloud."

That will change over time, Baldwin said, because the cost of building a data center is high, particularly in terms of key personnel, such as security or storage specialists who can command six-figure salaries.

"VMware is early in talking about the cloud," he said. "But they're planting their stake in the ground. Somebody's gotta get it started. It's pioneering time right now. The fact that VMware is betting big on this, well, they're doing the right thing."