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VMware Pulls Out All the Stops for vSphere 4.0

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The debut of vSphere 4.0 was a surreal sight.

Dressed in identical, dark blue t-shirts, VMware's Palo Alto employees massed in a courtyard between the company's office buildings here in the hills south of San Francisco.

Inside, the company's CEO, Paul Maritz, hosted a parade of executives -- enough to prompt one analyst to joke that a well-aimed cruise missile could take out half the Silicon Valley's C-level talent. Among the luminaries were names like John Chambers of Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO); Michael Dell of Dell (NASDAQ: DELL); Pat Gelsinger of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and Maritz's boss, Joe Tucci of EMC (NYSE: EMC).

Between the speeches, VMware showed a video of a marathon runner bearing an Olympic torch, running through all of the cities around the world where VMware has teams -- while the theme song to the movie "Chariots of Fire" played in the background. Instead of flame, however, the torch's fire was replaced with a DVD.

All this for virtualization software.

Of course, if VMware's correct, the launch is worth the hoopla: cutting costs and enabling new functionality as enterprises migrate more and more of their business-critical operations to cloud-based infrastructure.

CEO Paul Maritz, a former Microsoft executive who took over as head of VMware last July, called vSphere 4.0 "the first operating system for building the internal cloud ... We talk about treating resources as a single pool and giving it the name, 'the cloud.' It's a useful shorthand."

VMware CTO Steven Herrod said the new vSphere 4.0 will allow almost any type of application to run in a virtualized environment, including databases, which up to now have been thought unsuitable for virtualization.

Limits have been raised considerably. vSphere 3.5 supported four processor cores; 4.0 support 64. Version 3.5 support 64GB of memory per virtual machine, 4.0 supports 1 TB and virtual memory systems of up to 256GB in size. Input/output Operations Per Second (IOPS) has jumped from 100,000 to up to 400,000.

New efficiencies in the software will translate into savings, VMware said. Maritz claimed it will reduce storage needs by 50 percent, thanks to improved storage provisioning, increase the amount of consolidation per server by as much as 30 percent and cut power and cooling costs by 20 percent.

"Virtualization is not about the individual device, it's about virtualizing the entire datacenter and aggregating disparate hardware, compute, storage and networking, and aggregating it into what we call the giant computer," Herrod said. "Some people call it the mainframe of the 21st century."

In one demonstration, he talked about how it is now possible to virtualize a database server, and one server could handle five times the daily traffic that Visa sees daily. In another for Web serving, a virtualized server handled up to three times the traffic eBay sees daily.

EMC CEO Joe Tucci, the only person wearing a tie, closed out the show discussing the growth of VMware, how when it started, it was used by developers for testing. People expanded their use to third-tier apps, then eventually more important apps and into server consolidation.

"Today's announcement takes that to a whole other level to give customers unparalleled efficiency, control and choice," Tucci said. "And customers are using this to transform themselves. This is a platform transformation. This platform will transform the way customers build datacenters. This platform will transform the way server providers serve their customers."

vSphere 4.0's specs are very impressive: It can support up to 1TB of physical memory, 64 cores and 16 network connector cards, with protocols like Fibre Channel over EtherNet (FCoE), Infiniband and Gigabit Ethernet. But hardware has a habit of outpacing software.

Gelsinger said VMware won't fall behind again. "WMware is doing two things. One, they've already architected it for scale-out in the future, and they're also getting to a much more predictable release cycle to respond to hardware improvements," he told InternetNews.com.

"So in both cases, they are pretty well set up to keep up with the hardware roadmap."