VMware has unveiled vSphere, the long awaited overhaul of its core virtualization platform which is designed to aggregate the virtual resources in the data center into one centrally managed computing pool.
Seven months after VMware began teasing the industry with previews of the "Virtual Datacenter Operating System," VMware on Tuesday dropped that moniker and is now calling vSphere a "cloud operating system" to take advantage of growing interest in cloud computing and the idea of the private cloud.
In pushing the private cloud, VMware is hoping IT shops will build highly virtualized, fault-tolerant, self-service data centers that resemble those of cloud providers such as Amazon and Google, but which exist solely within the firewall for the benefit of an enterprise's own users. VMware said it will eventually release an upgrade letting IT shops connect their private clouds to cloud services offered commercially by the likes of Terremark, Savvis and SunGard.
VSphere is a major move for VMware and one that was necessary to keep the virtualization market leader ahead of competitors Microsoft and Citrix, analysts say.
"VMware has Microsoft, Citrix and in a very niche way Parallels over in the Mac market nipping at their heels," says Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence. "There's been a lot of buzz about [Microsoft's] Hyper-v. Citrix has done a lot of price cutting. VMware needs to say 'OK, I see your initiative and I raise it."
VSphere is the follow-up to VMware Infrastructure 3, the name given to VMware's core hypervisor and related management tools. VSphere will be available later in the second quarter.
Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's vice president of product marketing, says the goal of the cloud operating system is to turn IT into a pay-as-you-go service that is always available through a Web portal. VSphere aggregates all the virtualized x86 components of the data center and gives the IT administrator greater control over service levels, he says. "Our role is to enable customers to build their own internal clouds," he says.
VSphere will let customers create a single computing pool consisting of as many as 32 physical servers and 2,048 processing cores, 1,280 virtual machines (VM), 32TB of RAM, 16 petabytes of storage and 8,000 network ports, according to VMware.
Compared to VMware Infrastructure 3, vSphere will double the processors available to VMs, more than double the network interface cards available to VMs, quadruple memory, triple network throughput, and double maximum I/O operations per second to more than 200,000.
Thin provisioning technology will cut storage needs in half, and other improvements will let customers consolidate onto fewer physical servers and save on power and cooling. A Distributed Power Management system will use VMotion live migration to automatically place VMs on as few servers as possible while powering down physical boxes that aren't needed. Live migration of both VMs and storage has been enhanced to make it faster and easier, DiDio says
New fault tolerance capabilities will guarantee failover with zero data loss and zero downtime in the case of hardware failure, Balkansky says. This is an improvement over today's VMware high availability software, in which failing over requires about a two-minute service interruption, he says.