Building a so-called software-defined data centre with almost everything at the core virtualized isn’t a dream in the clouds, a VMware Canada official has told a customer meeting. Nor, he added, is it unaffordable.

“This is a major technology change,” Shawn Rosemarin, executive director for VMware’s architecture and professional services in Canada told a session in Toronto on Thursday.

Unfortunately, most of the market views this as “the miracle change” — something just happens between the time a company virtualizes much of its applications and the time when the data centre is dominated by on-premise or hosted cloud-based services.

But, he added, “there are no miracles — this is a plan and a process you can drive over the next few years and actually achieve goals throughout the process, build your careers, build your experience and be accountable for the results you and your corporation are able to achieve.”

The savings IT manages can achieve through virtualizing compute, storage, networking and security will help pay each step of the way, he said. The end goal is to be able to offer IT as a service through infrastructure as a service (being able to offer virtual compute for, say, test and development) and platform as a service (a stack including applications, storage and networking).

IT has to move this way, he warned, because if they don’t lines of business have choices — an inference that they can go to outside IaaS and PaaS service provides themselves.

The forum was one of a number of seminars for customers VMware has been holding around the world.

VMware, which makes a wide range of virtualization and cloud platform solutions, has been pushing the idea of a “software-defined data centre” –built with its products — that allows all data centre services to be easily provisioned and managed.

Rosemarin said VMware estimates 21 per cent of its customers around the world already have pieces implemented to create SDDCs.

However, it wasn’t clear from questions he tossed to the Toronto audience if organizations here are as far along on the journey.

For example, no one lifted a hand when he asked how many people have at least 1,000 virtual machines in their organizations. In fact no one budged when he lowered the number to 500.

Nor did anyone raise their hands when he asked if any organizations were working on software-defined  networks, an emerging technology a step down from software-defined data centers.

Which raised the question of whether Canadian organizations care about the roadmap Rosemarin had laid out.

“I think we’re at the crux of a major decision,” he said in an interview after his address.

Server virtualization was led by the server management team.  But creating a cloud-based infrastructure means a lot of approvals have to be made at the executive level.

Not all of those stakeholders were in the audience today, he said. Also, some may have not wanted to give competitors an idea of where they are going.

“You need a catalytic event” in the organization, added Eric Gale, VMware’s Canadian manager, such as a visionary CIO or CTO.”

But he insisted Canadian IT managers VMware [Nasdaq: VMW] talks to understand the concept of a software-defined data centre, Iaas and Paas. They’re just not sure how to get there.

He and Rosemarin pointed to a presentation by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP), which has been piloting using on-premise infrastructure-as-a-service using VMware’s vCloud Suite for quickly creating environments for application projects.

Jon Hammond, vice-president of enterprise technology services, told the audience that it took some time to build the first template, but after that provisioning that took weeks could be done in minutes.

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