VMware releases its 'cloud OS'

The company has released vSphere 4, the latest version of its core virtualisation platform, which manages and treats datacentre components like a single resource
Written by Sally Whittle, Contributor

VMware has released the latest version of its core virtualisation platform, vSphere 4, claiming it acts as a cloud operating system to the datacentre.

The product, the renamed successor to VMware Infrastructure 3, was made generally available on Wednesday, having been announced in April. The company says vSphere 4 will allow companies to centrally manage servers, storage and networks in the datacentre as though they were a single pool of computing resource.

Potentially, the new platform can reduce capital and operational costs by up to 30 percent in consolidation ratios, and 20 percent in power consumption, according to VMware.

"The bottom line is that this will enable customers to remove a lot of unnecessary overhead costs in the datacentre, where they might currently only be using 10 percent of server capacity," said Fredrik Sjostedt, VMware's EMEA director of product marketing. "vSphere 4 operates within the datacentre like a normal OS on a single server, but it provides access to the entire infrastructure, from storage to memory and switches."

The key improvements in the latest version of the platform are improved scalability for large-scale environments, more sophisticated management tools to control security and service levels, and an increased flexibility for customers choosing heterogeneous hardware, software and service-delivery models.

One of the key new features of vSphere 4 is the additional functionality provided by the 'virtual distributed switch', says Sjostedt. Previously, virtualised servers each needed their own virtual switch, a complex and time-consuming process. With vSphere 4, it is possible to create a single virtual switch that can manage the entire infrastructure.

"What's interesting is that the physical networking team can now manage virtualised infrastructure for the first time, using the normal management tools. This makes the entire configuration process much easier, and reduces overall complexity," Sjostedt said.

VMware is building private rather than public clouds, but potentially organisations will be able to move virtual machines to third parties, according to Chris Ingle, a research analyst with IDC. "It's hard to measure who is ahead in the market, but VMware is showing some strong performance numbers with this release," Ingle said.

The most useful new feature in vSphere 4 for customers is likely to be the increased level of support for CPU, memory and storage, said Ingle. This may persuade enterprises that currently do not use virtualisation to make the leap, he said.

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