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2/24/2009
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VMware Adds To Data Center Operating System

vCenter Server Heartbeat and vShield, launched at VMware's user group meeting, bring the company closer to supplying the data center operating system via its virtual machine management capabilities.

VMware Tuesday unleashed new virtualization products before the 4,400 attendees of its user group meeting in Europe. Products such as vCenter Server Heartbeat and vShield bring it closer to supplying the data center operating system via its virtual machine management capabilities.

VMware's former VM provisioning and management server, Virtual Center, has been renamed vCenter Server. At its conference in Cannes, France, VMware launched vCenter Server Heartbeat, a product to monitor the central management server. In the case of failure, Heartbeat shifts operations to another physical machine. By providing automated failover of the central VM management server, VMware can offer a greater guarantee of continuous operations.

"It provides a standby copy of vCenter Server, live and running on a separate physical machine. VCenter can fail over with no downtime," said Bogomil Balkansky, VP of product marketing, in an interview before the user group conference. Data center users would notice an outage of 10 to 15 seconds, perhaps, instead of 10 to 15 minutes, he added.

VCenter Server Heartbeat is priced at $4,995 and will become available in March. It works in conjunction with vCenter Server, priced at $9,995. Purchased together, they will be priced at $12,995, Balkansky said.

A second data center product introduced was vShield Zones, a virtual appliance for security that allows data center managers to create logical zones with different levels of security based on groupings of virtual machines. Instead of having to cordon off a group of Internet-facing servers with their own settings in a demilitarized zone, vShield allows a DMZ to be created among VMs that may be co-hosted on the same physical server with internal applications. "The DMZ can be 10 virtual servers instead of 10 physical servers," Balkansky noted.

Likewise, a set of credit card transaction processing virtual machines in their own zone could be located alongside internal applications that have been virtualized. Being co-resident on the same physical host would not prevent the credit card processing VMs from meeting Payment Card Industry regulations.

Security policies can be written and then enforced for specific sets of virtual machines. While physical appliances, such as firewalls, require network traffic to pass through them at a given location, the virtual security appliance can follow VMs around. The security zones remain in force even if VMs covered by them are migrated from one physical server to another, Balkansky said.

Enterprise users can segment applications based on security needs and run them in a shared environment, covered by their zone's protections, he added. VShield Zones is slated for availability in late 2009. A beta release will become available this spring. No pricing has been set.

VMware previously made an application programming interface for VM security available to third parties, and 50 partners are working on virtualization-aware security products. Those recently joining include Cisco, Juniper, RSA, Reflex Systems, Third Brigade, and Sourcefire, he said. They are leveraging new VMware ESX Server capabilities, such as hypervisor introspection, or the ability to watch hypervisor activity for any sign of intrusion or suspicious behavior.

VMware is working on products that enable internal clouds for enterprises, and its vCloud Initiative is meant to foster federation between the private and public clouds. Part of the initiative is to equip external cloud providers, such as Terremark, Melbourne IT, SunGard, and Savvis, with the VM management tools to supply services to enterprises that want to federate with their clouds. VMware CEO Paul Maritz said an example of such federation would be staged at VMworld Europe by deploying a workload from an internal cloud to an external cloud provider, through the same management interface being used by a private cloud user.

VMware also plans to illustrate the vCloud Initiative's API for invoking services in the external cloud from within the enterprise. Engine Yard, a Ruby on Rails development platform for cloud applications, will be used to demonstrate how an enterprise user could choose a service in either the internal or external cloud, or a combination of each.

In another area, VMware is working with Intel to deliver the VMware Client Virtualization Platform, part of its vClient Initiative. VMware will offer a desktop hypervisor, Client Virtualization Platform, that can take advantage of the virtualization hooks Intel is implanting in its latest chip architectures. A desktop or laptop built with Intel's vPro technology will be able to run a virtual desktop defined for the end user and capable of following him around from device to device. When the computer is taken off the network, the virtual desktop allows work to continue until it's reconnected through the desktop hypervisor. The security and updates to the virtual desktop are handled through a central server.

VMware officials said no date of availability or pricing have been determined.


InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of data center strategies. Download the report here (registration required).

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