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EMC World? More like VMware's World

The user conference is labeled "EMC," but its VMware that has the potential for world domination.

The user conference is labeled "EMC," but its VMware that has the potential for world domination.Joe Tucci, EMC's president, chairman and CEO gave the opening keynote of EMC World 2009, but he was more like the warm-up act, setting the stage for the main attraction by identifying the next big trends that will reshape IT. According to Tucci they are:

1. Virtualized data centers 2. Cloud computing 3. Virtual clients 4. Virtual applications

Notice a trend? Tucci tossed the virtualization pitch, and then stepped aside to let Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware, knock it out of the park.

Maritz centered his talk around vSphere, the virtualization platform that's officially being described as an operating system.

"We are deploying vSphere to draw a line under the fact that this isn't just about individual hypervisors," said Maritz in his keynote. "We want to stitch together a new layer of software to use aggregate resources to be more flexible. Individual hypervisors are becoming a distributed operating system, so you have a pool of machines that can share workloads and make things easier and more flexible to manage."

The goal for vSphere is to replace the traditional operating system as the interface for the entire software ecosystem. The virtualization layer becomes the touch point for applications and middleware that will run inside virtual machines, and the hardware, network, management and storage systems that underpin the applications.

FROM WINTEL TO VINTEL I think we'll quickly see the "Wintel" architecture giving way to the "Vintel" architecture. Said Maritz in his keynote "Intel is giving us monster processors that can handle large workloads, and virtualization is the most logical way to get the most benefits of this CPU."

VMware won't say outright that the server OS is dead, but its clear that in a virtualized world the server OS is relegated to a lesser player.

And on the hypervisor front, VMware is rolling out operations and management features that will keep customers from looking too hard at alternatives.

Maritz demonstrated one such feature in vSphere, VMware Fault Tolerance. In essence, the feature create a shadow instance of an application that runs simultaneously with the primary app. If the primary app goes down because of a hardware failure, the shadow instance immediately takes over. At the same time, the system can be configured so that a new instance spins up, ensuring that a shadow instance is always running.

VMware isn't stopping with the data center. Maritz also talked about the company's plans for virtual clients, in which an end user's virtual image is stored inside vSphere. At the office the user gets this image from a thin client. If she goes on the road, she gets the image onto a laptop to take with her, and then checks it back in when she returns.

Maritz also talked a great deal about federation between private and public clouds. Called the vCloud initiative, the vision is for service providers to use vSphere to let companies move workloads from a private data center cloud up into a public cloud to get access to more compute resources on demand.

This will take considerable work to ensure that resource requirements such as storage and performance are met, along with security and compliance, but if VMware can pull it off, its platform becomes the de facto standard both inside and outside the data center.

While other forces are arrayed against VMware hegemony in private and public clouds, the company seems confident that it can build on its current market share, and that its technology edge will carry it forward.

"We have no intention of standing still," said Maritz in a post-keynote press conference. "VSphere puts us one whole step ahead of Microsoft. This is not easy software to do. In the five or six years since Microsoft started, they just now have the basics to be a credible vendor in this space. We have sufficient critical mass to stay ahead and that's what we intend to do."

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