VMware has introduced a service for developers that want to test out building cloud-based applications that will work with virtualised environments based on its products.
The infrastructure service, vCloud Express, will be offered via a number of cloud service providers that have signed up as partners, the company said in its announcement at the VMworld conference on Tuesday.
vCloud Express is based on the company's vSphere virtualisation platform. As with other recently launched services, such as the Xen Cloud Platform, it aims to allow a business's internal cloud to work with an external cloud. It offers developers a way to prototype and test applications using pay-as-you-go cloud services that are compatible with IT deployments based on VMware's platform. They can then run those applications in the cloud and on the business's virtualised infrastructure.
Terremark, BlueLock, Hosting.com, Logica and Melbourne IT and several other cloud service providers, have signed up to provide vCloud Express. These companies are currently offering the service as a beta.
"Terremark's vCloud Express services will provide our customers pay-as-you-go, on-demand access to enterprise-class infrastructure that is flexible enough to offer unmatched compatibility with their own internal IT platforms," Terremark chief executive Manuel Medina said in a VMware statement.
Gartner research director Stewart Buchanan told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that enterprises could benefit from the flexibility and availability of the cloud, but he also warned against the pitfalls that could arise because of licensing terms.
"You have your operating system, your utilities and management tools — all the kind of things you would ordinarily run in-house on this virtual machine," Buchanan said. "Will you be able to lift them up and take them into the cloud? According to [most software vendors' licensing terms], the short answer is no."
Buchanan explained that with, for example, most vendors' databases, licensing is based on hardware capacity — the number of processors, cores or hosts. He said that, unless software vendors themselves had a stake in the cloud, it would be "quite a difficult challenge" to take advantage of the cloud while respecting existing licensing models.
"As we move into the cloud, we are starting to see more cloud service providers being able to license technology," Buchanan said. "Instead of buying your software and running it on the cloud, we'll see a different model where you build your application but, instead of you providing the licences, you will buy a licence from the cloud service provider."
Buchanan noted that the current licensing environment would limit applications for vCloud Express to products that are safe to license to the cloud — particularly open-source applications.
"Open-source licences tend not to have issue unless you want to have maintenance," he said. "You will need to negotiate an alternative solution with your maintenance provider, but, in general terms, licensing your product isn't going to be such a problem."
The majority of cloud service providers have been focusing on open-source implementations because of these licensing challenges, Buchanan said, suggesting that the maturation of the cloud market would bring more enterprise-class commercial offerings.
"As the cloud is [established] on a more commercial basis, we are going to see opportunities for companies like VMware to expand their presence through cloud implementations," Buchanan said. "VMware has a well-established brand in enterprise virtualisation in the datacentre, but they haven’t really exploited the cloud opportunity yet. That's effectively what they are doing now."