Nebula's Kemp Challenges VMware's Cloud Vision

Chris Kemp, former NASA CIO and OpenStack founder, says Nebula's server scale-out approach is superior to VMware's server-consolidation play to run next-gen applications.
Companies will pour their future development efforts into an application that captures the core of the company's business and makes it digitally available to thousands of users. The closest thing to what Kemp is talking about that's run today, he said, is the Hadoop implementation inside many businesses. In some cases, Hadoop is used to capture, sort and manage all the data on each customer. By applying analytics, the employees responsible for the customer get a more up-to-date and complete view of expectations and needs, Kemp noted.

The VMware IT administrator is, figuratively speaking, "inside one machine, trying to carve it up into 10. The Nebula IT administrator is in 10 machines, trying to run them as one," he added.

By talking about how it's a cloud vendor also, VMware is "adding confusion to the discussion" of cloud computing and "blurring what is actually black and white."

That may be, but in an interview with Bill Fathers, VMware's general manager of hybrid cloud, the division between pre-cloud and current cloud firms is not as clear cut as that.

VMware had the option of going to an existing hardware supplier in which it has invested -- Virtual Computing Environment -- and installing its server racks as the quickest way for it to implement the vCloud Hybrid Service. It hasn't done that. VCE designs for today's virtualized workloads, and Fathers knows that his hybrid service will need to be commodity infrastructure, competitive with Amazon Web Services, rather than the highly engineered, highly optimized VCE server racks. (VCE is a subsidiary of EMC and Cisco Systems, using VMware virtualization software on Cisco's Unified Computing System. Intel and VMware are "investors" in VCE, not owners.)

Fathers won't say exactly what VMware is using, but confirmed it's closer to Microsoft, Google and Amazon's commodity and white-box server approach than VCE's.

That means VMware understands two of the essentials of the cloud. It is resilient software, capable of overcoming a hardware failure in a cluster, and it enjoys economies of scale because it's based on commodity hardware parts.

An open question is whether VMware will get all the other essentials of cloud into its vCloud Suite as fast as the OpenStack project can inject them into its platform. VMware joined OpenStack in part because it understood its own development teams couldn't outstrip the project in key, emerging areas, such as software-defined networking.

So there's a race underway, with the spectators being asked, "Who'd you rather get your cloud software from?" A team dedicated to virtualizing and automating everything in today's data center, with all the drawbacks of its legacy systems? Or a team dedicated to the new mode of operations, focused on running one very large, mission-critical application effectively?

VMware might say Kemp, in his black-and-white formulation, is imposing a simplicity that's never going to reside in the enterprise data center. But both parties agree the nature of enterprise software is changing fast, and they're in a race to produce the most value for that next-generation application owner.

Learn more by attending the Interop conference track on Cloud Computing and Virtualization in New York from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.

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