VMware told us more about its cloud computing strategy, cleverly named "vCloud". If you'll remember, Paul Maritz (please see Notes from VMworld for a discussion of the inital announcement of this strategy). This time, a bit more information on VMware's Virtual Datacenter Operating system (VDC-OS) and VMware's VCloud API. Although they're not announcing the availability of specific products, they are moving this concept forward. While this appears to be a good move for the VMware community and ecosystem, international multi-vendor standards have yet to emerge.
Here's what VMware says about this announcement
Today at VMworld Europe 2009, Paul Maritz, president and chief executive officer of VMware, Inc. (NYSE: VMW), outlined a comprehensive strategy and technology roadmap that will help enable companies to achieve the benefits of cloud computing internally, and bridge to external clouds through a private cloud. This strategy is aimed at a more modern approach to delivering IT as a service, achieving the maximum efficiency and flexibility for businesses. Building on announcements from VMworld Las Vegas 2008, today at the second-annual VMworld Europe 2009 in Cannes, Maritz discussed and demonstrated three key enabling components for building a private cloud: the complete virtualization of the datacenter through a Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS), the extensions of the VDC-OS and the management layer to enable service providers to deliver external clouds and federate with internal clouds, and the evolving technologies for desktop virtualization to tie all elements of IT as a service together.
Since quite a number of journalists and analysts have already commented on what Paul Maritz had to say, I'd like to look at it from another angle. It is clear that the cloud computing concept has captured the imagination of many suppliers. Quite a number of these suppliers are presenting their thoughts on cloud computing, external and internal clouds and, of course, how their products are uniquely qualified to be an organization's choice when deploying this approach. Some of these suppliers are focused on using their application virtualization tools, some are focused on management tools for some of the major cloud hosting suppliers' environments and some are offering a comprehensive view that encompases today's applications as well as future applications. What's not as clear is whether the concept is being broadly accepted by organizations of all sizes, geographic locations and markets.
To me, the key feature to look for is openness, cross-vendor and cross-platform compatibility, security and management. If all a vendor is really asking you to do is "put on these shackles to our APIs, our management tools and our virtualization strategy", they're doing themselves, not you, a favor.
One of the key benefits of a more virtualized environment is the ability to select hardware, operating systems, management tools, applications and application environments that best fit an organization's requirements rather than merely what a single vendor is supporting.
It is clear that a fully developed virtualized environment is going to use all of the layers found in the Kusnetzky Group model of virtualization technology (see Sorting out the different layers of virtualization for more information on the model).
While VMware's announcement appears to have the promise of many of the things I've mentioned above, it also appears to be designed to lock VMware's products into the DNA of an organization's IT infrastructure. I find myself concerned about openness and cross-vendor compatibility.
Although I'm dredging up the ancient past, the UNIX market had an interesting parallel to today's environment. Then, UNIX was the center of everyone's strategy. As with today's market for virtualization technology, the market splintered into opposing camps. Each promised to solve all of the problems people where then facing with compatibility and yet the products from vendors in an opposing camp often were not going to be supported. I remember when part of the UNIX community, the Open Systems Foundation developed a UNIX standard called OSF/1 and launched it in 1988.
OSF/1 was clearly a response to AT&T and Sun getting together to create UNIX System V Release 4. Scott McNeally, the head of Sun Microsystems, a master quip meister said that OSF really stood for "Oppose Sun Forever." (You just have to love Scott's ability to come up with a quip.)
The foundation included many computer suppliers that are now footnotes in history including Apollo computer (now HP), Groupe Bull, Digital Equipment (now HP), HP (still HP), IBM and Nixdorf Computer. Later Phillips and Hitachi joined. and only one supplier, Digital Equipment, actually brought a product to market. In 1996 OSF and X/Open merged to become the Open Group.
What's all that have to do with today's environment? Well, the landscape is equally divided. Suppliers such as VMware, Microsoft, Citrix and Parallels are all trying to create their own ecosystems. Microsoft and Citrix appear to be playing nice. Microsoft, having agreements with Novell/SUSE and Red Hat, is also working with some, but not all, members of the open source community. "The Cloud" is clearly a minefield for IT strategists and not likely to be much better soon.
Let's hope that as international standards for cloud APIs, cloud management, cloud security, access mechanisms, storage mechanisms and networking mechanisms will emerge soon enough to prevent the cloud from becoming as balkinized as did the world of UNIX.