VMware prepares for the all-software future

VMware is preparing its technologies for a future where the datacentre is viewed as a set of multiple services rather than as a collection of virtual machines and infrastructure.

VMware anticipates a future where services, not virtual machines, will be the main way in which a datacentre is segmented.

At VMworld 2012 in San Francisco on Monday, the virtualisation company's executives talked of a future where everything in the modern 'software-defined datacentre' runs as a service, and all of it is managed by VMware.

"The software-defined datacentre is about... virtualising all the different components you have in the datacentre," VMware's chief technology officer, Steven Herrod, said in the keynote.

In this ideal datacentre, everything – compute, storage, networking – runs as a service that can be managed by the same software platform. This is a top-down model of datacentre administration, where the IT manager does not need to worry about a facility's underlying hardware, but instead focuses on the technologies they are delivering to end users.

VMware pointed to its acquisitions of network virtualisation company Nicira  and cloud manager  DynamicOps , along with software advancements in vSphere and vCloud Director as evidence of this ambition.

vSphere update

VMware took steps toward this future on Monday with a series of updates to VMware vSphere and vCloud Director.

Version 5.1 of vSphere increases the compute power of virtual machines (VMs), so it can support VMs with up to 64 virtual compute cores,  compared to 32 last year . These successors to the 'monster VM' will be capable of more than one million input-output operations per second (IOPS) VMware said, without giving further details.

The company also introduced features that let administrators migrate VMs without shared storage, and adds replication capabilities to the technology. It made moves in networking as well, with updates to the VMware vSphere 5.1 Distributed Switch, increasing the number of hosts it could support and adding new management capabilities.

Taken together, the vSphere update anticipates a world in which administrators are faced with larger storage, networking and compute requirements in their datacentre and introduces features to help them tackle this.

vCloud Director 5.1

On the infrastructure side, VMware announced vCloud Director 5.1. The infrastructure automation and management platform has received a software update that lets it create virtual datacentres that can manage 30,000 VMs when split into multiple distinct vSphere clusters. It also increased interoperability in the technology via a series of API upgrades.

When you look at the updates together you're confronted with a vision of the future that sees management move away from specific bunches of datacentre hardware and to something much more 'holistic' – in other words, VMware believes that companies are going to move away from buying IT from a single vendor and will instead operate a more heterogeneous environment. VMware hopes to compete here.

The executives also took time out of the announcements to swipe at Microsoft and its model of virtualisation.

"Hypervisors are given away [for free] today, what it's all about is the automation layers on top of that," outgoing CEO Paul Maritz said at a press conference. "Right at the time when Microsoft is breathlessly announcing they're 'good enough' for server virtualisation, we're announcing that the game has changed, it's about datacentre virtualisation."