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With vSphere 6, VMware Gives Its Server Virtualization Cash Cow A Makeover

VMware's first major release of vSphere in nearly four years shows just how much the server virtualization kingpin has diversified its business, and partners say storage is taking center stage.

VMware's first major update to its vSphere server virtualization software since 2011, unveiled Monday, shows that the vendor isn't going to let its flagship product become commoditized without a fight.

VMware has added its latest storage and management technologies to vSphere 6 in order to make it easier for customers to move workloads back and forth between their data centers and public clouds, CEO Pat Gelsinger said at a press conference in downtown San Francisco.

These include VSAN 6, VMware's latest update to a product that pools storage from server hard drives and makes it available to virtual machines; and Virtual Volumes, a new technology that performs a similar function with third-party storage arrays, which previously couldn't work with VMs.

Customers can use Virtual Volumes to define policies for how their VMs use storage, and VMware's software stack ensures that they're being followed, Gelsinger said.

[Related: VMware, Google Teaming Up To Go After Microsoft's Enterprise Cloud Customers]

VMware has signed up 29 vendors to support Virtual Volumes and "essentially all of the storage industry" will be delivering products in 2015, said Gelsinger.

Jeff Guenthner, director of solutions architecture at CMI, a Mill Valley, Calif.-based VMware partner, told CRN he thinks adding storage to vSphere is a logical next step in the product's evolution.

VMware acquired software-defined storage vendor Virsto in order to build more storage functions into its hypervisor, and now that's coming to fruition, according to Guenthner. "If VMware can push into that space and control the stack end-to-end, why wouldn't they do it?" he said.

Meanwhile, VSphere 6 also comes with a new feature called Long Distance Live Migration, which customers can use to move running VMs and workloads between hosts across geographic regions.

At the event, Raghu Raghuram, general manager of VMware's Software-Defined Data Center unit, said this feature is aimed at customers that want to get a better handle on disaster recovery and planning.

Service providers will find Long Distance Live Migration to be particularly useful, and VMware is working on adding it to its vCloud Air public cloud, Raghuram said.

Charles Kanavel, CEO of The Kanavel Group, a San Jose, Calif.-based VMware partner, told CRN he thinks Long Distance Live Migration will appeal to hosting providers and large enterprises with geographically distributed data center architectures.

NEXT: VMware's First OpenStack Distribution Coming Soon


VMware also took the wraps off its first OpenStack distribution -- called VMware Integrated OpenStack -- which it's pitching to its existing customers that want to set up OpenStack clouds on top of their VMware infrastructure.

VMware's OpenStack is free for vSphere Enterprise Plus users -- which is more than half the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor's customer base. "It's a better way to deploy OpenStack in your environments," Gelsinger said.

Since this is the first vSphere release in more than three years, VMware has baked in a ton of new features -- 650 in all -- and given the software a major performance boost. But in contrast with the vSphere 5 launch, which was defined by "Monster VMs," VMware spent little time talking about this.

VMware has doubled the amount of hosts in a cluster from 32 to 64, and quadrupled both the number of VMs that can run on a host and the amount of virtual RAM a VM can hold.

All this extra capacity in vSphere 6 means that customers running resource-intensive apps, such as SAP's HANA in-memory database, can run them virtually, Gelsinger said.

VMware has raised pricing for vSphere with each of its past two major releases, and also introduced a new licensing model with vSphere 5 that it ended up revoking after customers complained it was prohibitively expensive.

This time around, VMware isn't changing pricing. Customers that buy vSphere 6 as a standalone product, or bundled with vSphere Operations Management or vCloud Suite, won't see a price increase, Mark Lohmeyer, VP of product management and market for vSphere, said in an interview at the event.

VMware's vSphere 6, OpenStack, VSAN 6 and Virtual Volumes are all slated to ship this quarter.

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