Monday, September 15, 2008

An early analysis of VMware vCloud and VDC-OS

It's the first day of VMworld, and already the P/R for new technology and "roadmaps" is flying.

The news that caught my eye was VMware's vCloud & Virtual Data Center O/S (VDC-OS) Initiatives... Strategically, it's a great move for them. They've essentially said "hey, enterprises use VMware internally, and service providers use VMware too. So why not link the two?" Cool idea. Just missing the mark by a teeny bit. An excerpt from their P/R:
Today at VMworld 2008, VMware, Inc. (NYSE: VMW), the global leader in virtualization solutions from the desktop to the datacenter, announced a comprehensive roadmap of groundbreaking new products and technologies that expand its flagship suite of virtual infrastructure into a Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS). The Virtual Datacenter OS allows businesses to efficiently pool all types of hardware resources - servers, storage and network – into an aggregated on-premise cloud – and, when needed, safely federate workloads to external clouds for additional compute capacity. Datacenters running on the Virtual Datacenter OS are highly elastic, self-managing and self-healing. With the Virtual Datacenter OS from VMware, businesses large and small can benefit from the flexibility and the efficiency of the “lights-out” datacenter.
My reactions to this are mixed. But I'm sharing them to shed light on what this announcement means for data center operators, MSPs, and IT Operations folks. Full-disclosure: I work at Cassatt, who's been developing software for data center management now for over 5 years. So the concepts VMware is talking about are actually not new to me at all; I've been living them for a while.

A few initial reactions, and cautionary advice:
  • First: I'm thrilled that VMware is finally educating the market that "it's not all about consolidation". There's a bigger "there" there!
  • Gartner Research (Tom Bittman), has been touting a "Meta-O/S" for the data center for some time. I'm sure that's where VMware got the idea for VDC-OS. But, their vision was more heterogeneous. More on that later...
  • While VMware has coined the term "On-Premesis Cloud", it's been in the news for a while. Here at Cassatt we've been talking about "Internal Clouds" for some time. So has our CEO. Even check out our website. I wonder if VMware took notice...
  • The concept of "federating" virtualization management systems (and storage and network) is great. And the fact that VMware has roped-in partners like Savvis, Rackspace, Sungard and more means they're serious. The Gotcha, however, is that the concept works *only* if you buy-into VMware-specific technology. What if you have some other technology like Citrix' (Xen), Microsoft's Hyper-V or Parallels' Virtuozzo? Multiple Virtualization technologies under one roof is gonna happen, folks. Plan for it. (wait for my punchline...)
  • Keep in mind that this is a VMware roadmap. Not everything is in place yet.
  • What about "The Forgotten 40%"? That is, IT OPS will always have systems that are not virtualized (e.g. transaction processors, directory servers, and other high-throughput and/or Scale-Out architectures). Some analysts believe the number could be as much as 40% of infrastructure. How are you going to manage those systems? You'll Still need a second (if not a third and fourth) management system in addition to vCloud.
So, allow me to take this announcement and append a few nuances to shape it into what IT would want it to look like. Apologies for adding bias :)
  1. Demand "equal rights" for physical/native systems: The concept of a "meta O/S" for the data center has to include support for all systems, as well as coverage for systems which are *not* virtualized.
  2. Require VM heterogeneity: Data center operations will have to federate systems (i.e. for failover, capacity extensions, etc.) based on arbitrary technologies. Not VMware only. Fortunately, companies other than VMware are doing this.
  3. Products are available today: you don't have to buy-into a roadmap. Actually, companies like Cassatt are already delivering on multi-vendor, Physical + Virtual, and "federated" styles of failover, disaster recovery and data center migration.
At the core of where the industry is going is utility computing: This doesn't require that you have to use Virtualization at all, or (if you do) that it come from a single vendor. Cassatt's CTO, in fact, was the designer of one of the best O/S's on the market -- so we know what a real "data center operating system" ought to be.

We'll be at VMware, booth 1440, BTW.


James Urquhart said...


Excellent analysis. I updated my own post on the three cloud OS announcements today (VMWare, Citrix and Virtual Iron) to make sure people see this.

However, I'm still concerned that you kind of brushed over OVF, and the effect that portable appliances will have on the whole "VMWare lock-in" story. Is OVF a no-op? What is Cassatt's position relative to this burgeoning VM portability story, and the OVF standard in particular?

Anonymous said...

Good Analysis.
Few more comments :

* Would VMWARE build a cloud of its own or just provide cloud "products" ?

* Virtual Center has lots of scaling issues for a cloud based solution where change is much more frequent. Are those solved or is VC just not used here ?

* Building a true multi-tenant cloud based offering to handle networking and storage for IT data center is a lot more challenging than running Ruby-on-Rails the Amazon style.

Ken Oestreich said...

James' asks a great question - and what of OVF? It speaks to VM portability... which I'm dubious about 'cause not all vendors always play by the rules. But if they did, that would make Cassatt's job even easier.

My 'lock-in' reference was more about VMware's story implying that to get the interesting dynamic properties they spoke of, *everything* had to be on VMware VMs first. I don't think that's tennable long-term. The industry still needs an "out-of-band" VM-vendor-neutral management tool to adjust resources of all physical and virtual types.

BTW, OVF speaks only to portability, and does not embody things like SLA management policies. But others are addressing that....

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