What do you do when you are a company that once held a dominant position in a lucrative market like IT but the technology revolution you started has passed you by? If you’re VMware, you roll with the changes.
It was basic server virtualization, after all, that led to the cloud, software-defined infrastructure, containers and the mobile, Big Data and IoT architectures they now support. But like IBM, Microsoft and countless other technology leaders before and since, the world doesn’t sit still just because an old problem has been solved – the focus shifts immediately to the new problems that the new working environment presents.
Such is the case with VMware, which has been trying to pivot from a server virtualization company to a broader cloud-facing infrastructure company since the beginning of the decade. At VMworld this week, the company is pulling out all the stops, delivering not only new capabilities on its traditional server platform but incorporating storage and networking as well and tying it to hybrid cloud architectures through broad integration with leading container platforms.
In the company’s biggest nod to the public cloud so far, the new Cloud Foundation is aimed at forging a set of services that make it easier to port workloads from internal VMware architectures to public clouds like AWS, Azure and Google. To be sure, says Fortune, this was always an option on vSphere and vCloud Air, but the difference now is that Cloud Foundation incorporates virtual networking to a higher degree to smooth out many of the migration and integration issues that inhibit the flow of data. At the same time, Cloud Foundation is said to incorporate a high degree of programmability across the entire virtual data stack, allowing organizations to essentially retool their data environments in the face of changing business needs without having to invest in new hardware.
This seems to fit hand-in-glove with VMware’s other big announcement: the addition of a container registry and management portal to the vSphere Integrated Containers program. The move came largely at the request of users who were dissatisfied with the platform’s inability to secure containers and manage them separately from virtual machines so DevOps teams can work with them without having to access the entire vSphere system. The Harbor registry system is actually based on the open source Docker Distribution project, and as such can be linked to the Docker registry that provides free Docker application images online.
VMware is also shoring up its capabilities on the client side, with additions to the Horizon virtual desktop platform aimed at placing performance on par with real desktops. Among them are new on-premises, cloud and hybrid deployment options and integration with IBM’s SoftLayer managed hosting platform. Perhaps most crucial, however, is added support for Riverbed Technology’s SteelHead WAN accelerator on the Blast Extreme network protocol, which should reduce bandwidth requirements six-fold and reduce the lag that Horizon users say hampers performance, particularly in graphics-heavy applications.
This broader view beyond servers and even the data center is exactly what VMware should be doing, according to SunTrust analyst John Rizzuto. The transition actually began a good two years ago, he tells Barrons, but now is largely complete and the company is finally positioned to play a key role in the enterprise transition from on-premises infrastructure provider to distributed, service-driven digital entity. With basic server virtualization coupled with NSX networking and vSAN virtual storage, the company has all the tools to create a fully software-defined data center (SDDC) that can support workloads on top of virtually any underlying hardware platform.
Not everyone is convinced that VMware will once again rule the data environment, least of all VMware’s top brass, which reiterated at VMworld its desire to work with the broader IT community to craft integrated solutions, even with companies like HPE that compete directly with VMware’s new parent, Dell.
But the fact remains that practically every enterprise on the planet employs VMware virtualization in some fashion, and when faced with the prospect of building on what you have versus starting over from scratch, most techies prefer the former.
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 and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.