At VMworld today, VMware announced two strategic shifts that are as important as they are unsurprising. One pits VMware firmly against powerhouses IBM, HP and Microsoft in the competition for infrastructure control. The other extends VMware’s virtualization story into cloud computing. Are they overreaching?
The first, “Virtual Data Center Operating System”, is what Gartner defined as a meta operating system in 2004. A meta operating system is a virtualization layer between applications and distributed computing resources; it utilizes distributed computing resources to perform scheduling, loading, initiating, supervising applications and error handling. Essentially, an operating system that manages distributed resources. If you have hundreds or thousands of individual operating systems, take certain common functions and consolidate them for the entire pool of resources. Microsoft had a research project years ago that focused on just this – they called it BIG, for “billions of interconnected gizmos”. That led to the Dynamic IT strategy, but we haven’t seen Microsoft put much effort into redefining the operating system concept because of it – yet.
VMware includes in their concept what Gartner calls a service governor, which adds policy-based management on top of a meta OS. Combined, these two create what Gartner calls a real-time infrastructure. The service governor is the real challenge for VMware, which is one reason they haven’t called it out.
What is interesting is that VMware is finally describing a larger strategy that is completely competitive with IBM (remember the On Demand Operating Environment?), HP (Adaptive Infrastructure) and Microsoft (Dynamic IT). The strategy is credible, but there are many, many gaps that need to be filled. In particular, while VMware is strong in virtualization, they are very weak in service management. Regardless, it will be difficult for IBM and HP to miss the competitive threat (which, of course, they should have seen starting in 2001). This is the only natural evolution for VMware, but the road is littered with challenges.
The second strategic shift was the introduction of vCloud – essentially, services that make movement of virtual machine-based workloads in and out of the cloud easy. It takes programmers to leverage Amazon’s EC2. vCloud’s intention is to give infrastructure administrators the ability to make sourcing decisions not only within a data center, but to and from cloud providers who leverage VMware’s technologies. VMware also hopes to build a market of cloud computing providers that use VMware’s software to power their cloud computing architectures. While there will be a growing demand for software that enables cloud providers, VMware can only play if their pricing for service providers is much lower than VMware’s price today for enterprises.
There’s a lot more to discuss and analyze, but I’ll leave that for a future post.
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