VMworld opens with new products, new attacks

VMware begins its conference debuting products to manage virtualization for corporations, while Microsoft launches an ad campaign targeting its rival's new licensing policy.
Written by Jay Greene, Contributor on

As virtualization leader VMware opens its annual VMworld conference in Las Vegas today, it's launched a raft of new products designed to ease managing virtual machine technology for corporations, as well as lined up several new partnerships to help companies find, connect and manage its cloud services.

The leader in virtualization software comes into the conference after a rocky summer, when a new licensing scheme set off a firestorm of protest from customers, leading the company to backtrack. The company has also had to deal with increased pressure from Microsoft, the software giant that trails VMware significantly but continues to launch public relations attacks at the company to lure customers.

As the conference opens, VMware is debuting vFarbric Data Director, a product designed to give information technology managers more control over the variety of databases in their systems. The new product offers policy-based automation to manage those diverse databases. And Data Director allows for self-service provisioning of databases for developers so they can quickly grab the database service they need to create new applications.

David McJannet, VMware's director of Cloud & Application Services, said the idea is to reduce "database sprawl," the spread of under-managed and potentially insecure databases throughout corporations. The company is hoping to solve the problem of developers fishing around for databases to create applications rather than waiting for IT departments to provision one for them. Data Director is designed gives those developers quick access to the tools they need.

"It's about enabling an organization to offer databases as a service internally," McJannet said.

The first database supported on Data Director is VMware vFabric Postgres, a new offering from VMware that is based on and fully compatible with PostgreSQL, the open source object-relational database management system. VMware also announced that database vendors Sybase and Greenplum will support Data Director, which will be available for download in the third quarter of 2011 for $600 per managed virtual machine.

Separately, VMware also introduced some new programs and technology to help customers find and manage their cloud services. One of the new programs is Global Connect, a program that stitches together offerings from service providers from across the globe--Bluelock in North America, Colt in Europe, SingTel in the Asia Pacific region, and Softbank in Japan. The service from those partners lets multinational companies operate their clouds as across those regions as though they delivered were in a single, virtual cloud.

VMware also debuted a new Web site--vcloud.vmware.com--where companies can find vCloud service providers and test drive their services. Right now, VMware lists 48 partners worldwide in alphabetical order. But Mathew Lodge, senior director of Cloud Services at VMware said the listings will ultimately include reviews and recommendations to guide customers.

"It was quite difficult to find a good provider," Lodge said.

It's unclear if VMware Chief Executive Paul Maritz will address the company's new licensing plan and the outcry it sparked. When VMware unveiled the plan in July as it launched its vSphere 5 platform, customers lit up blogs and the Twitterverse, complaining about increased costs. Within a few weeks, VMware revised the licensing policy in the face of that discontent.

VMware rival Microsoft, which is trying to chip away at the massive lead of the virtualization giant, seized the opportunity to pitch its own technology. Earlier this month, Jeff Woolsey of Microsoft's Windows Server & Cloud group posted a dissertation on the price revision on the Microsoft Virtualization Team Blog. He came to the conclusion that, no surprise, VMware was still hiking its prices.

Microsoft plans to continue the barrage during VMworld. As the conference begins, Microsoft is launching an ad campaign featuring a plucky video that will run on IT news sites, poking fun at what Microsoft suggests is VMware's out-of-date pricing policy. The ad features a sales executive, dressed in flashy 1970s garb and sporting a Fu Manchu mustache, trying to sell virtualization technology from a company called "VMlimited" from the back of his tricked out van. At one point, a customer asks if the price he's offering is based on unlimited use.

"Absolutely. In fact, the more you use, the more you pay," the salesman says to the bewildered customer.

Microsoft's PR boss Frank Shaw, who publicly challenged Google's chief legal officer earlier this month in a dispute over patent licensing, blogged that Microsoft will continue to aggressively challenge rivals.

"You can expect to see us continue to find ways to tell our story, on our own and against our competitors, especially where there is a gap between perception and facts, using ads, tweets, video, infographics, and, we hope, more than a dash of humor," Shaw wrote.

This story was originally published on CNET News.com.

Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and covers Microsoft, Google and Yahoo. He's the author of the book, Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons (Penguin/Portfolio). He started writing about Microsoft and technology in 1998, first as a reporter for The Seattle Times and later as BusinessWeek's Seattle bureau chief.

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