VMware Aims Virtualization Toward The Cloud With vSphere

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VMware on Tuesday unveiled vSphere, its next-generation virtualization technology on which customers and partners can virtualize data center resources to build cloud computing infrastructures.

The new VMware vSphere 4, in addition to the traditional server virtualization functionality of the VMware ESX and ESXi and VMware Infrastructure 3 on which it is built, is aimed at aggregating and managing processors, storage and networking as part of a dynamic operating environment.

Those capabilities are a necessary part of building a cloud computing infrastructure, VMware said.

Cloud computing is a way to dynamically combine and scale server, storage, networking and other resources outside of a company's own traditional data center for such purposes as remote data storage or running Software-as-a-Service. A company can build an internal cloud, which allows those resources to be available for its own purposes, or can use external clouds, which are available over the Internet.

VSphere is the base on which IT as a service can be built, said Bogomil Balkansky, vice president of product marketing in VMware's server business unit.

"It hides the complexity of the infrastructure from the people who use the infrastructure," Balkansky said.

Application deployment today requires a lot of manual processes, but with the right technology it could be automated, the first step in building a complete cloud infrastructure, Balkansky said.

So far, industry discussions on cloud computing have focused on external clouds, but the primary discussion going forward is on how customers can develop internal clouds and connect them to external clouds, Balkansky said.

"VSphere is technology to help customers turn their data centers into internal clouds," he said. "It will help ISPs build cloud infrastructures. And it will help customers take advantage of external clouds, move into and out of external clouds, and use both internal and external clouds in what we call the private cloud."

VSphere 4 offers to improve the performance and scalability of virtual IT infrastructures in several ways.

It enables the building of more powerful virtual servers, Balkansky said. For instance, a virtual server can now be configured with up to eight virtual processors compared to four with VI3, and up to 10 virtual network interface cards compared to four NICs previously. They can also be configured with up to 255 GB of memory per virtual machine, or four times what was previously possible.

In addition to more powerful virtual machines, vSphere 4 also scales much farther than its predecessor, with the ability to cluster up to 32 physical servers with 2,048 processor cores, 32 TB of RAM, 16 PB of storage and 8,000 network ports into a single logical resource pool, Balkansky said.

VMware also has added new capabilities to help improve data center efficiency.

New with vSphere 4 is VMware vStorage Thin Provisioning, which allows customers to overprovision the storage capacity of virtual machines while not actually tying physical storage capacity to a particular machine.

Also new is VMware Distributed Power Management, a new technology that uses VMware's VMotion function for automatic migration of virtual servers between physical servers to move as many virtual servers to as few physical servers as possible in order to power down unneeded physical servers to cut power and cooling costs.

Other new features include VMware Fault Tolerance, a technology that allows a virtual machine to fail over to another on a separate physical server to ensure application uptime; VMware Storage VMotion, which provides live migration of virtual server data across heterogeneous networked storage types; VMware Data Recovery for disk-based backup and recovery; and VMware vShield Zones to enforce corporate security policies in a shared environment.

While many of the new features overlap with technology offered by storage and security vendors and others who traditionally have built products that work with VMware, the company expects its technology partners to find new ways to work with vSphere, said Stephen Herrod, CTO and senior vice president of research and development at VMware.

For example, Herrod cited thin provisioning and security, which also are provided by a variety of storage vendor partners.

"But our storage partners, like NetApp and EMC, also provide thin provisioning with higher performance and more features," he said. "So we give customers a choice. For security, we provide zones, like managed firewalls. But partners' products will be richer, and with better performance. "We definitely have overlap at some level. But we've been talking to partners."

VSphere offers the ability to lift any customer application away from the underlying hardware and be run in internal and external clouds, said Rick Jackson, chief marketing officer at VMware.

"Everybody's grasping for the cloud," Jackson said. "But how can they get there? It's unlikely a customer can throw their infrastructure over the wall and into the cloud. So we are saying, bring the cloud into the data center."

It is something customers have been waiting to do, as evidenced by the move to adopt SaaS, Jackson said. "But the problem is, if a company has a business application that can't be ripped from the user's IT infrastructure, it can't be moved to a SaaS platform," he said. "Why not let us abstract that application so it can be run in a cloud?"


Next: Introducing vSphere To Partners

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