VMware's Maritz: OS, Hardware No Longer Relevant With Cloud

VMware CEO Paul Maritz laid out his company's view about the future of cloud computing and said the days in which applications are tied to hardware or operating systems are quickly passing.

Maritz on Tuesday told financial and industry analysts at EMC's Strategic Forum that customers are looking for greater agility and efficiency in their IT infrastructures, a search which requires a complete rearchitecture of their data centers.

"Profound change is coming in the industry," he said. "When change happens, you have winners and losers. And we plan to use the tide of change to our advantage."

Increased agility and efficiency will depend on moving away from a dependence on the underlying hardware, Maritz said.

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He poked a gentle jab at Oracle without mentioning that company by name when he said that the competition thinks it can provide for customers' new requirements in a "giant box."

Instead, Maritz said, the new data center requires at its base new types of software to increase automation. "This in effect becomes the new hardware," he said.

That new cloud infrastructure actually consists of three layers which help stitch together public and private clouds to generate business value, Maritz said.

It provides the functionality of today's operating systems by automating the aggregation of hardware and software resources into pools and then deploying those pools. However, unlike an operating system, which is tied to specific hardware, the new cloud infrastructure depends completely on virtualization, he said.

Maritz repeated the words of EMC Chairman, President, and CEO Joe Tucci, who earlier during the EMC Strategic Forum said that starting in 2009, more applications are being deployed on virtual infrastructures than on physical infrastructures.

However, Maritz said what Tucci didn't mention was that because of virtualization, more operating system deployments don't touch hardware directly than do touch the hardware.

Maritz broke the new cloud infrastructure into three layers. At the bottom is the infrastructure layer, where such functions as virtual machine migration, high availability, disaster recovery, and fault tolerance are all handled automatically by software such as VMware's vSphere.

Maritz said vSphere breaks the hardware dependencies for those functions, making it possible for customers to focus less on capital expenditures and more on operating expenditures.

For instance, he said, vSphere in the near future will let customers automate the provisioning of storage with policies that will follow data wherever it goes so that the storage arrays on which it is stored automatically understands customers' requirements for such tasks as replication.

VMware is also increasing automation related to data security through its vShield software, Maritz said. vShield cuts the hardware ties to such capabilities as load balancing, VPN, and anti-virus, and replaces them with APIs that allow security vendors to attach virtual security devices that follow the data wherever it resides. That increases data security by making it relatively easy to build in multiple defense layers via virtual security appliances, he said.

NEXT: More Automation, More Layers, Less Hardware Dependencies

Further automation at the infrastructure layer is provided by VMware's vCloud Director, which Maritz said provides a catalog of SLAs and policies from which customers can choose to apply to data regardless of the hardware on which it resides. "Customers can start to behave internally like a service provider," he said.

The second layer, or what Maritz called the application layer, provides new ways to either encapsulate old applications or develop new applications so that they work today or ten years later without regard to the underlying hardware.

For new applications, developers are depending on a new generation of programming frameworks such as Spring or Ruby on Rails to provide the APIs to run automatically on the application layer instead of the traditional model where the APIs are used to interface with the operating system and hardware, Maritz said.

The third layer is software to manage user interaction with the applications. Maritz said that automation at this level is becoming increasingly important as IT departments are increasingly unable to specify their users' computing devices but instead are being forced to deal with such devices as the iPad or smart phones.

VMware is addressing this layer with its VMware View virtual desktop infrastructure, which allows user workloads to be packaged in such a way that they work on any user device.

Maritz said that VMware View is doing well as a business, but that the virtual desktop industry as a whole still needs time to grow. "I'm now sure I'll declare this the year of the virtual desktop," he said. "We've heard that many times."

VMware is also working with smartphone maker LG to develop an Android-based device that can be configured as two separate phones with their own individual numbers, one for business use and one for personal use. That, Maritz said, will allows IT to wall off the corporate data so that it is not impacted by the user's personal phone use.