Say this much for VMware, they know when the times are a'changin.'
The company is gearing up to launch the newest version of its hypervisor, dubbed vSphere, and word on the street is that it will lean very heavily in the direction of internal clouds. Heading from virtualization to cloud computing is a natural progression, to be sure, but this would be the first time we've seen it integrated onto the hypervisor in any significant fashion.
Details are sketchy at this point -- a major announcement is expected April 21 --although the company did let some tidbits slip out at its partner conference this week in Florida. The idea, apparently, is to build a higher level of automation and integration among disparate data center resources so they can be pooled together into internal cloud architectures. Add to that a push for virtualized desktops and you have a recipe for a dynamic infrastructure that can be scaled and balanced either on its own or in conjunction with external public clouds.
Although the company made its name in straight virtualization, it has become clear it couldn't go much farther relying on the same old technology. Sales have been flat over the past several quarters as competition from Microsoft and Citrix has heated up. The cloud offers a new direction in which data centers can leverage what was initially a server consolidation technology into a entirely new level of functionality.
Another aspect of VMware's cloud strategy is third-party support. Already the company has lined up several key partners in the effort. One of them is Collabnet, an application lifecycle management firm that has agreed to incorporate the VMware Studio development environment into its TeamForge platform. The idea is to allow applications created under Studio to work seamlessly across internal and external cloud structures, giving users the ability to tap resources wherever they are.
Unisys, already a long-time VMware partner, is also on board, telling Network World that it will provide vSphere across its new generation of enterprise servers, which are also set to debut next week. The devices will sport the new Xeon 5500 processors and are said to lessen the price differential between scale-out and scale-up virtualization.
And of course, having EMC as a majority partner doesn't hurt either. The company has tapped VMware's APIs for the automated provisioning component of the new Symmetrix Virtual Matrix Architecture (VMax), which is designed to pool storage resources for the cloud. There's no word yet on whether vSphere will play a significant part in the system, but it is worth noting that the company has yet to release a Hyper-V-friendly version.
For any business, moving beyond the technology that serves as your foundation is largely a matter of timing. That plain vanilla hypervisor sales are lagging is not in question. But the danger is that VMware could be moving too far, too fast for many organizations that have only just gotten their feet wet with virtualization. It's a noble thing to lead troops into battle, but it's very dangerous if they don't follow.