"It's a liquid world. Every industry is being transformed," warned VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger Monday, in announcing one of the company's most important upgrades ever of its data center virtualization software, vSphere 6. Gelsinger's remedy for all this change is what he calls "brave IT" -- where in-house IT shops will set policies for how their data centers should run, and VMware products will actually manage all the physical servers, storage, and network boxes.
It's a bold message that Gelsinger followed up with a slew of vSphere, Virtual SAN, and NSX virtual networking product announcements. VMware has long provided software to virtualize and manage servers the way Gelsinger describes, but these new products will help IT organizations better convert storage and networking to virtualized resources. vSphere 6 pushes the virtualized data center farther toward the goal of controlling the entire data center through software.
"We're trying to abstract away the infrastructure," Gelsinger said, during a panel discussion Monday. "… We want to make the infrastructure increasingly opaque but driven by policies that the customer would want."
The forces of mobile computing and cloud are disrupting the enterprise systems on which the business depends, Gelsinger said. VMware's new products took a notable step forward in terms of running in-house data centers with cloud-like flexibility, but the company still has a lot of work to do to connect data centers out to public cloud services like Amazon's or Microsoft's.
Gelsinger referred to the environment VMware wants to create as "one cloud," with VMware virtualization letting IT teams turn their data centers into a private cloud, driven either by VMware's vCloud software suite or by its just-announced OpenStack distribution, called VMware Integrated OpenStack. VMware wants to make it possible for any application to run either in a conventional virtualized data center or in a more cloud-like setting. "We're seeking to build a seamless, hybrid capability bridging across these two worlds," he said.
IT managers should remember that when VMware uses the term "hybrid cloud" here, it means the virtualized part of a data center working with a private cloud component, usually in the same data center and under the same ownership.
[Want insight on VMware's cloud-based disaster recovery approach? See VMware Offers 'One Button' Disaster Recovery In The Cloud.]
VMware execs say they're working on enhancements that will help IT shops connect their in-house data center resources with public cloud infrastructure services. It has enabled a few functions to work in an integrated fashion with the public cloud, but that primarily still is in connection with VMware's own vCloud Air public cloud. VMware Site Recovery Manager is one such example. But VMware is still a ways from letting IT freely moving workloads out from the enterprise data center into Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or other popular, third-party public cloud services, in a way where IT can see and manage the resources in those environments.
New Features In vSphere, VSAN, NSX
The feature most likely to catch the customer's eye out of 650 additions to vSphere 6 is Long Distance vMotion. It allows the live migration of virtual machines among a company's data centers that can be as far as 3,000 miles apart. The data centers need both to be updated to vSphere 6 and to have a network that can send data round-trip in 100 milliseconds or less, which is what creates the roughly 3,000-mile limit.
Long Distance vMotion doesn't yet deliver VMs to a public cloud service, including VMware's own vCloud Air. The data centers that provide vCloud Air service aren't upgraded to vSphere 6 yet, since it won't become available until later this quarter. But vCloud Air data centers will be destinations for the Long Distance vMotion as soon as they get the upgrade, said Raghu Raghuram, executive VP and general manager of the Software-Defined Data Center business unit. He declined to put a timeframe on it the upgrade.
On the storage and networking front, Gelsinger said VSAN 6 and NSX 6 bring to storage and networking the same virtualized resource features the ESX Server brought to servers. "NSX 6 has been a breakthrough in how networking is done," he declared.
NSX can now provide a gateway to establish virtual private networks with a vCloud private cloud, vCloud Air public cloud, or a VMware Integrated OpenStack cloud.
Gelsinger called vSphere 6 "the biggest ever release of vSphere." With it, VMware is pushing virtualization development toward the point where the whole data center can be mapped and managed as a set of virtualized resources under the control of one nerve center run via VMware vSphere.
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