Say one thing for VMware: It knows when the times are changing.
The company came out with the much-anticipated upgrade to vSphere and several other key systems this week, driven largely by the desire to manage the enterprise transition from straight-up virtualization to private and hybrid cloud architectures. The package, which is due to hit the channel next month, encompasses virtual server, networking and storage components designed to give the enterprise a single environment that spans local and distributed infrastructure. In this way, VMware approaches the hybrid cloud from the opposite direction as Google, Amazon and other providers: It seeks to leverage its installed base of virtual enterprise infrastructure to build a new data environment rather than ask the enterprise to recreate what they already have on the cloud.
To do this, VMware has orchestrated a number of disparate capabilities into a cohesive whole, says tech analyst Tom Fenton. A key link in the chain is the new Virtual Volumes (VVOL) module, which basically rewrites the rules on how hybrid clouds utilize storage. Now, each virtual machine is equipped with its own SLA, which eliminates reliance on the Logical Unit Number (LUN) and allows the VM to maintain a consistent storage environment across a multi-platform cloud. As well, the VMs themselves are larger, with 128 virtual CPUs rather than 64 and upwards of 4 TB of RAM, while the overall platform supports 64-node clusters and has increased the speed at which admins can spin up virtual clones.
The platform can also be linked to numerous public cloud providers such as Amazon and Rackspace, but VMware has forged a special relationship with Google that integrates the vCloud Air service to the Google Cloud Platform. The idea is to offer a single VMware management interface that covers instances even as they tap into Google’s hyperscale infrastructure. To that end, vCloud Air will host a number of key Google services, such as Cloud Storage, BigQuery and the Cloud Datastore, and customers will only have to pay for the loads that make their way into the Google cloud. In the future, expect to see full management of Google Cloud Platform in the vRealize management stack.
Integration is always desirable, and VMware does offer the ability to layer virtual environments on a range of hardware platforms, but this still leaves the enterprise dependent upon a single-vendor solution for its cloud architecture. Naturally, this has open source proponents like Red Hat urging caution. While vSphere does provide a full set of OpenStack APIs, Red Hat’s Bryan Che tells CBR Online that it will still be difficult to optimize VMware environments for particular workloads. APIs are useful to cloud admins who want to spin up new data environments, but they don’t help developers looking to deploy applications. A pure OpenStack play, he argues, offers the convenience of scale-out architecture without having to mess with details like network configuration and storage management.
The open vs. proprietary debate has been going on for decades, of course, and it will likely continue even as the cloud becomes more federated. Ultimately, it boils down to a simple choice: the convenience of having a turnkey product ready and waiting or the flexibility of crafting a home-grown solution that can cater to specific needs.
Both offer a valid pathway to the hybrid cloud, but both are likely to reveal hidden costs and complexities as they make their way to full production environments.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.