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9/2/2009
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VMware Seeds Amazon Cloud Competitors

vCloud Express is a counterstroke to Amazon EC2 cloud services.

VMware is taking up cloud seeding in a direct challenge to the leading cloud vendor, Amazon, with its EC2 and Amazon Web Services.

VMware CEO Paul Maritz said at VMworld Tuesday that his firm will offer service providers VMware vCloud Express, a set of virtualization tools that allow them to set up low end, self-provisioning, pay-as-you-go cloud services that match up more easily with the VMware environments inside the enterprise.

Although Maritz didn't say at the San Francisco event, vCloud Express is a counterstroke to the popular, easily available Amazon EC2 cloud services. Amazon relies on the open source Xen hypervisor to run workloads in its cloud, not VMware's product set. As a result, EC2's Amazon Machine Image format requires VMware customers to recast their virtual machines in Amazon's AMI.

It's not difficult to convert from VMware's VMHD format to AMI format, and Amazon provides tools to help IT managers do so. But it's an added step. VMware is trying to capitalize on the incompatibility. It is aiming to help competing cloud service providers make headway against Amazon based on an ease of use features. VMware's ESX Server dominates virtualization in the data center, and data center workloads would move more easily into an ESX Server-based clouds. vCloud Express is meant to smooth the path between service providers who adopt it and enterprise VMware users.

"This notion of federation -- getting the internal and external resources to work together -- we think that's a differentiator for VMware," Maritz said.

VMware has signed up managed hosting company Terremark, the cloud platform as a service firm RightScale, service providers Hosting.com and Bluelock as implementors of vCloud Express in their environments, Maritz said.

In addition, service provider Savvis, Verizon Business, and AT&T plan to offer more secure and higher level cloud services that are also based on a VMware's product set but not the vCloud Express offering. They found vCloud Express stopped short of security levels and services they plan to offer.

Savvis, for example, yesterday said it will offer Project Spirit later this year, which will function like a private data center located in an external cloud.

Maritz himself acknowledged the more plebian nature of vCloud Express. Service providers that adopt it will be able to display a vCloud Express logo, "which means fast and cheap. Rather, I should say, fast and cost-effective," said Maritz at one point in a session for the press on VMware's cloud initiatives and vendor partners.

By offering VMware-compatible services in the cloud, all of these providers will be able to ease migration of VMware virtual machine workloads and provide a shared administrative interface between internal and external environments.

"Developers can deploy their own servers without having to wait for IT," said Manuel Medina, CEO of Terremark, who was on the stage with Maritz. "vCloud Express delivers control directly to customers. They can set up new accounts, adjust virtual machine resources, turn additional machine on or off and execute virtual machine commands with no human interaction," said Craig McLellan, CTO of Hosting.com, in Hosting's own announcement of vCloud Express services. He was not present at VMware's press conference.

Another implementer, Frank Crandell, CEO of RightScale, said his firm was using vCloud Express in order to "simplify deployment, automate management and provide a simple consistent interface" for its customers. For cloud computing to work, customers will need to find it simple to use and administer, he said.

In addition, VMware announced Tuesday at the event in San Francisco that it has submitted its vCloud API to the Distributed Management Task Force for codification as a public standard. The API allows third parties to build products that help manage the VMware environment and improve virtual machine performance.


InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on server virtualization. Download the report here (registration required).

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