VMWORLD 2010: The company is attempting to reinvent itself as an

VMware pushes ‘new stack,’ becomes ITaaS firm

SAN FRANCISCO – VMware Inc. on Tuesday unveiled its new cloud computing strategy aimed at building out “a new stack” for enterprises looking to stitch together both private and public clouds.

Headlining the new plan is vCloud Director, new software running on vSphere that gives administrators and end users a single platform for running apps in a hybrid cloud. VMware said the software, which was formally known as Project Redwood, will let IT package virtual computing pools together as an infrastructure service comprised of power, storage and networking resources.

VMware is hoping that IT managers will use the software to create catalogs that allow end users to serve themselves and automatically provision private or public cloud apps.

The announcement was made at the company’s annual VMworld user conference in San Francisco, which is focused on the push toward hybrid cloud computing and “IT as a service.” 

Speaking at the event’s opening keynote, CEO Paul Maritz said that organizations will soon be forced to take a more business-centric approach to IT, which means data centres will shift from producing IT services to optimizing the way those services are produced and consumed by the business.

Maritz told the audience that VMware now uses 15 different software-as-a-service apps across a variety of different internal business departments.

“We’re going to have to deal with these new applications or IT is going to be left holding the bag,” he said.

Additionally, with more apps being run on virtual infrastructure than physical infrastructure, there are more pockets of apps being deployed that no longer see the hardware. Because of this, Maritz said, a new stack is needed.

VMware’s vision of one management platform that can control the entire hybrid cloud from in-house apps to a range of hosted services is an interesting one, said Andrew Jones, director of IT at Ottawa-based IP video firm March Networks Corp.

“I don’t think they’re off-base,” he said.

To utilize this model at a company like March Networks, Jones said, the cost savings need to be demonstrated at smaller shops rather than just large enterprises. Also, the “one view” management platform has to be capable of maintaining security policies and service level agreements, he added.

John Sloan, a lead research analyst with Info-Tech Research Group Ltd., said end users only care about how technologies are going to improve their lives, and have little interested in technologies that will make an IT administrator’s life easier.

“The trick of virtualization is that it has helped IT reduce capital costs and improve the availability and recoverability of systems,” he said. “That’s all great stuff but it doesn’t make life any easier for the consumer of technology services. It is this consumer that vCloud Director is supposed to help. “

Sloan added that VMware’s rival Citrix Systems Inc. has criticized VMware in the past for not having a consumer focus and have little understanding of the environment outside the data centre.

“Some of the ideas floated in the VMware keynote about IT service consumer self service and making the delivery of services better is stuff Citrix was talking about two years ago,” he said. 

The rest of the “new stack”

Along with addressing what it calls the “new infrastructure” with vCloud Director, VMware also made announcements to target the other components of the new stack targeting cloud application developers and end users consumption needs.

On the developer side, VMware is following in the footsteps of Microsoft Azure and the recently announced Red Hat JBoss Enterprise middleware-based platform-as-a-service, with its vFabric application platform. The “new open application platform”, which is for developers building apps on SpringSource, will give coders an option of deploying their apps wherever they want.

To address end users, the company released VMware View 4.5, which is the latest update in its desktop management and delivery portfolio.

Jones said he is most excited about the VMware View update because of the opportunities it continues to bring to his traveling staff. “The flexibility of being able to check out a PC as the sales guy is getting into the airplane is great,” he said.

Chris Wolf, an analyst covering virtualization for Gartner Research Inc., said the updated View means the platform is truly ready for prime time in the enterprise. He said new features such as role-based access controls, administrative change logging capabilities, and official support for Windows 7 were all significant shortcomings in the previous version.

Security updates

Rounding out the big product announcements on day one of the show was a new three-product vShield line aimed at addressing endpoint, application and edge services, including firewall, virtual private networks and load balancing.

Grant Aitken, Canadian country manager at VMware, said many Canadian firms will be happy to see the arrival of the new vShield products, as security has often been a hindrance for virtualization projects.

“You weren’t going to put a firewall in between every single server in the physical world, but you can in the virtual world,” he said.

Two new acquisitions

While certainly less headline grabbing when compared to the recent sale price for 3PAR, VMware also announced it has acquired Irvine, Calif.-based virtual performance analytics firm Integrien and Los Gatos, Calif.-based access and identity company TriCipher to help it along in its move towards an IT as a service company.

Maritz said the deals wouldn’t immediately affect the company’s financial numbers, adding that the moves were “driven by strategy more than by near-term financial gain.” 

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