IT shops compete with public clouds, VMware says

IT departments must start viewing public cloud services as both a friend and a foe, according to VMware Inc. CEO Paul Maritz.

Speaking at VMware’s annual virtualization forum in Toronto, the virtualization giant’s chief executive gave conference-goers a picture of the data centres of the future, which he said would be hybrid, private and public cloud-based environments.

If enterprise IT shops fail to implement external cloud servers successfully into their own environments, he said, some users will cut out the middle man and go directly to some public cloud service providers.

IT departments that have historically been the monopoly provider of IT could find leakages in control in their environment, with some external service providers even targeting particular business units at major organizations.

Maritz said that the idea of an IT shop “going out of business” unless they build out a private cloud might be an extreme point of view, but there is a very real danger for administrators to lose some control of their environment unless they adapt.

To do this, virtualization technology also has to improve to allow for device-independent user provisioning of apps, especially in light of the mobile device (laptop and smart phone) explosion.

“Enterprises should be focusing on the apps that their employees need and managing them, rather than managing the devices they’re using,” Maritz told the audience.

Maritz gave conference attendees a sneak peak at where device management in the virtual world is headed as he showed off a hypothetical user interface which could let IT administrators view employee profiles, set security and role policies and provision server, desktop and public cloud-based apps in one single interface.

But while this idea of one application giving an IT manager complete control to manage and provision every application an employee uses — regardless of where the application sits — is still a few years away, that doesn’t mean IT shops shouldn’t start preparing today.

Chris Wolf, research director at Gartner Research Inc., echoed Maritz’s points on public cloud providers, saying that “they are not only your partner, but they’re also going to try and take services away from you.”

In response, he said the goal of any organizations engaging in virtualization should be multitenancy.

“The security guys say ‘physical isolation,’ but at the end of the day, to be more operationally efficient that means more multitenancy,” he said.

While technology is not ready to completely enable this yet, enterprises can start by trying to bridge the gap between security, server, storage, networking and operations administrators.

“You can’t have this one über general that does it all,” he said. “Bring the other teams in. We’re all in this together.”

“You have to be building to be the internal service provider for you business today,” Wolf added.

As for choosing vendors, Wolf warned that a warranty is only as good as the vendor’s ability to honour it, so enterprises will want to stick with trusted brands and partnerships, which includes the VMware, Cisco Systems Inc., EMC Corp. coalition.

IT leaders should also begin to work desktop and application virtualization requirements into current and future RFPs, Wolf said.

“The only way you’re going to get vendors to support this is to tie it into a sale,” he said.

Other key initiatives for IT managers will be modularization that separates the OS, apps and user persona; server-hosted virtual desktop pilots; thin- and zero-client assessments; the repurposing of physical PCs, and the continued exploration of software and platform-as-a-services delivery options.

Administrators will also want to be looking for capacity management, lifecycle management and orchestration and service automation tools that integrate with mixed cloud environments, Wolf added.

According to Maritz, VMware will continue to advance its vSphere, vCloud, and VMForce platforms on predictive release cycles. The ultimate goal for the company is to make it easier for organizations to move their IT investments back and forth between all types of cloud services.

For Wolf, vendors such as VMware and Microsoft Corp. are on the clock to deliver next generation application delivery models that are user-centric.

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