VMware aims to define software-defined data center with new portfolio

UPDATED: The buzz around software-defined data centers is still cloudy (so to speak) for some, but it defines VMware's game plan for the near future.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- If you're still unsure about what exactly software-defined networking or a software-defined data center is, you're not alone.

But VMware is probably hoping to clear up the confusion and also pique the interest of IT decision makers this week, putting the cutting-edge technology front and center this week at VMworld 2013.

Speaking during opening keynote of the virtualization giant's 10th annual expo on Monday morning, CEO Pat Gelsinger lectured to roughly 21,000 attendees at that software-defined data centers are based around the following four pillars: expand virtual compute to all apps, transform storage by aligning it with app demands, virtualize the network, and management tools give way to automation.

"Ultimately this infrastructure we build is all about applications," Gelsinger declared, acknowledging that millions of both "traditional" apps (i.e. Oracle, SAP, Microsoft SQL) and "next-gen" apps (i.e. Python, Hadoop, etc.) each come with unique requirements.

Thus, most of the big product announcements coming from the virtualization giant focus on shifting the spotlight from hardware to software to process data-intensive workloads and support virtual machines.

Here's a rundown on the entire portfolio of new products as well as updates being announced amid Monday's opening keynote this morning:

  • NSX network virtualization platform: This new networking and security model basically shifts everything from hardware to software. Running on Nicira's network virtualization platform (which VMware picked up through an acquisition last year) and VMware's vCloud cloud infrastructure management platform, the framework promises to support any existing applications already running on physical (hardware) network infrastructures. Pricing hasn't been revealed, but it is expected to drop during the fourth quarter of 2013.
  • Virtual SAN storage for virtual machines: Described as a new "virtual data plane," the Virtual SAN storage is meant to pool together compute and direct-attached storage for the vSphere cloud-based virtualization operating system. The converged infrastructure should then provide for better and faster scaling while reducing the total cost of ownership. Virtual SAN will initially debut through a free public beta program starting in Q3.
  • vCloud Suite 5.5: Updates to the cloud infrastructure management suite include new recovery methods following OS failures, performance enhancements when running latency-sensitive applications, and virtualization of server-side flash to lower application latency. Customers can also now run Apache Hadoop and Big Data workloads on VMware vSphere 5.5 by subscribing to vSphere Big Data Extensions. Rolling out during the third quarter, pricing starts at $4,995 per processor.
  • New certifications for credentials validating entry-level skills around cloud, network, and data center virtualization
  • More consulting services about deploying software-defined data center architectures

Looking forward, Gelsigner outlined three "imperatives" for next-gen IT infrastructures:

  1. Virtualization becomes extended to the rest of the data center. According to VMware execs, networking is the most important for the immediate discussion.
  2. IT management has to give way to automation, and that automation enables IT to move at the velocity of businesses.
  3. The hybrid cloud becomes ubiquitous.
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