VMware's vSphere was the topic of conversation when I spoke with Bogomil Balkansky Vice President of Product Marketing for VMware a short while ago. It appears that the VMware mantra for this product is "IT as a Service: Efficiency, Control, Choice." VMware is doing its best to compare what they are now offering to the telephone system.
This comparison, however, has been made often for topics such as "software as a service," "utility computing" and a few other industry catch phrases. What's not clear is if the market will believe VMware any more than when suppliers such as HP, IBM and others said similar things nearly a decade ago.
What is clear is that VMware wants everyone to believe that they've cut through years of industry buzzwords and catch phrases and are now offering, with the help of their partners, the perfect set of tools for organizations to create their own in-house clouds and then to use cloud resources offered by outside suppliers as the situation requires. They're even going so far as to call this "the new mainframe."
Here's how VMware describes their offering
VMware, Inc. (NYSE:VMW), the global leader in virtualization solutions from the desktop to the datacenter, today unveiled VMware vSphereTM 4, with new features and product editions that deliver “Always On IT” for small and midsized businesses (SMBs) and remote and branch office (ROBO) IT environments. VMware vSphere 4 will deliver zero-downtime application availability and enterprise-class data protection managed under a single pane of glass, providing simplified and truly affordable disaster recovery previously out of reach for most small IT organizations.
VMware vSphere 4, the industry’s first operating system for building the internal cloud, was designed to meet the needs of a wide range of IT environments. With VMware vSphere 4, smaller IT environments will be available to achieve the full benefits of efficiency, resilience, and manageability demanded by large enterprises, at a price point that fits their more modest budgets.
VMware vSphere 4 is the only virtualization solution to deliver ‘Always On IT’ that meets the most critical needs of SMB and ROBO customers by providing zero-downtime application availability and comprehensive data protection features ideal for smaller IT environments:
- VMware Fault Tolerance and High Availability provides true continuous availability for infrastructure and applications to further enhance service continuity, enabling critical applications to run with zero downtime or data loss due to hardware failures.
- VMware VMotion™ reduces planned downtime from server maintenance activities by enabling the live migration of running virtual machines from one server to another with no disruption or downtime.
- VMware Data Recovery provides fully automated backup and recovery for all applications and data, with complete integration with VMware’s management client for simple deployment and efficient operation.
- VMware vShield Zones secures applications and data inside a dynamic firewall that maintains complete protection across the physical and virtual environment with point-and-click ease.
Snapshot analysisIt appears that VMware has brought things that were promised a while ago to market (see Notes from VMworld and Another review of Paul Maritz's vision of a datacenter OS for earlier posts on this topic). The company still maintains that it is providing the "operating system for the datacenter" even though it really is only offering virtual machine software, orchestration software for virtual server environments, clustering/high availability software for virtual server environments and a level of fault tolerance for distributed virtual environments all based upon industry standard systems.
This technology appears to offer capabilities that a number of other suppliers, such as Cassatt, have been offering in different forms for a number of years. It also appears that VMware really has no way to manage and orchestrate all of the resources in a datacenter of any size. There is no mention of mainframes, midrange systems, storage systems or networking systems that are in the datacenter. Some of these will be brought to the party by VMware's partners, however.
When I review the block diagram of VMware's vSphere (see below), the company has touched all of the bases, at least for workloads hosted on industry standard systems. If the offerings of all of VMware's partners are considered, the solution offering is quite broad.
All in all, the set of products VMware is offering are likely to be useful to customers interested in the "cloud computing" idea and want to take steps to implement that concept in their own datacenters. It won't, of course, manage any large, complex datacenter as only industry standard workloads and resources are considered. Those wishing to deploy Hyper-V, XenServer, Xen or KVM won't be able to take part in VMware's vSphere world either.
Another key point is that the vSphere environment is far more complex than a mainframe. There are more components, coming from different vendors to match, dare I say it, the simple mainframe environment. While it might be able to match the performance characteristics of a mainframe when supporting some workloads, it remains to be seen if managing, operating and taking care of all of the moving parts in vSphere will be more cost effective than deploying a mainframe for most mainframe workloads.
Unasked for shoot-from-the-hip adviceVMware, it's clear that your team has developed some powerful technology. It is also clear that your marketing rhetoric reaches much further than your technology can reach. The use of datacenter operating system really implies that you can deal with everything in a typical datacenter. This is clearly reaching too far. The same can be said for the comment "this is the new mainframe."
Your messages about fault tolerance indicate that you'd like companies to feel safe deploying their "do or die" workloads in your environment. Since many of these workloads are hosted on mainframes or midrange systems that are unlikely to ever see your software, you've again reached a bit far.
VMware, when thinking about your software that you're suggesting organizations use to create fault tolerant environments, I'm reminded that this is a version 1 product. Organizations may acquire and test the software, but who would be willing to assign really critical workloads to version 1 of any product, regardless of the supplier? One of the nice things, VMware, is that you have partners, such as Stratus, who can help.
Your credibility suffers when you allow your marketing team to present a glowing image of the world that is only vaguely related to the reality in organizational datacenters of any size. Do you suppose you could rein in those marketing war horses a bit? Your technology doesn't need the puffery to be desireable to your customers.