Project Monterey: VMware's solution to the requirements of next-gen applications

Touting the new play as re-imagining hybrid cloud architecture to support the new wave of 5G, cloud native, data-centric, machine learning, multi-cloud, and hybrid apps.

VMware has kicked off day one of its virtual VMword 2020 conference with a slew of announcements focused on its idea of a "digital foundation for an unpredictable world".

The first is Project Monterey, which the company considers as redefining hybrid cloud architecture for the data centre, cloud, and edge.

Speaking with ZDNet, vice president of VMware's advanced technology group Chris Wolf said Project Monterey will help customers address the requirements of a new generation of applications.

As organisations modernise existing apps and deploy news ones, traditional IT architectures are being stretched to meet their unique requirements. Due to this, Wolf said next-generation apps spanning 5G transformation, cloud native, data-centric, machine learning, multi-cloud, and hybrid apps distributed across environments have produced new challenges for IT organisations.

To avoid adding further silos to the process, such as resulting from the adoption of GPUs, field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and smart network interface controllers (SmartNICs), VMware believes Project Monterey will tackle the problem from the start.

The initiative will span support for SmartNICs, platform re-architecture, and security.

"If we look at where we are at …. cloud native, telco, 5G transformations -- this is really increasing the amount of network traffic and scale. How does the next-generation infrastructure handle that? It's really looking at network I/O and virtualisation offload that would come in the form of SmartNICs as they continue to grow," Wolf said.

"For machine learning and data-centric apps, there's a stronger need for hardware acceleration requirements and then for multi-cloud and hybrid apps, we're seeing a lack of traditional perimeter create a need for newer security models as well.

"We've been looking at ways to create better isolation for those particular use cases."

VMware is working to evolve VMware Cloud Foundation -- vSphere, vSAN, and NSX -- to support SmartNIC technology, which is a new architectural component that offloads processing tasks that the server CPU would normally handle.

"By supporting SmartNICs, VMware Cloud Foundation will be able to maintain compute virtualisation on the server CPU while offloading networking and storage I/O functions to the SmartNIC CPU," the company said in a statement.

"This will allow applications to maximise the use of the available network bandwidth while saving server CPU cycles for top application performance.

"VMware has taken the first step of this evolution by enabling ESXi to run on SmartNICs."

As part of Project Monterey, VMware will rearchitect VMware Cloud Foundation to enable disaggregation of the server, including extending support for bare metal servers.

"This will enable an application running on one physical server to consume hardware accelerator resources such as FPGAs from other physical servers," the company said. "This will also enable physical resources to be dynamically accessed based on policy or via software API, tailored to the needs of the application."

VMware said as ESXi is running on the SmartNIC, organisations will be able to use a single management framework to manage all their compute infrastructure, be that virtualised or bare metal.

"Another cool use case is around bare metal and composability. What gets really fascinating from a virtualisation perspective is if we take the ESX control plane that's normally running on the server, running your applications in virtual machines, and we move that off to the SmartNIC, we can actually now start to get the best benefits of VMware virtualisation such as NSX and vSAN storage and be able to apply that to bare metal workloads running on the server," Wolf added.

"So for some of your applications that may want to take advantage of just bare metal, we can give you the best of both worlds."

He added the decoupling of networking, storage, and security functions from the main server would allow these functions to be patched and upgraded independently from the server.

VMware said with Project Monterey, advancements in silicon further enable its vision of bringing "intrinsic security" to life.

"Each SmartNIC is capable of running a fully-featured stateful firewall and advanced security suite. Since this will run in the NIC and not in the host, up to thousands of tiny firewalls will be able to be deployed and automatically tuned to protect the particular services that make up the application -- wrapping each service with intelligent defences that can shield any vulnerability of that specific service," it added.

"This will enable a custom-built defence that will be able to be automatically tuned and deployed across tens of thousands of application services."

To bring Project Monterey to life, VMware is working with its partners including Intel, Nvidia, and Pensando Systems, and system companies Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Lenovo, to deliver solutions based on the new project.

Project Monterey is currently in preview.

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