Virtualization main players have long been touting the efficiency benefits of their technology. Now VMware is aiming to go one better, taking virtualization to the cloud with the release of vSphere 4.0.
The technology builds on VMware’s Infrastructure 3 and Hypervisor products to further ease datacenter management, said John Gilmartin, VMware’s director of product marketing.
VMware’s venture into cloud computing is not entirely unexpected, with industry watchers pointing out the benefits to VMware in concentrating on new areas — particularly as its virtualization core competence becomes a commodity.
For VMware, it’s an ambitious move. “We see vSphere 4.0 as the industry’s first cloud operating system,” Gilmartin said. “It will help add internal clouds to existing datacenters and enable third parties to sell computing capacity on demand.”
The company’s also pulling out all the stops to highlight the effort, culminating in a mammoth unveiling at VMware’s Palo Alto headquarters with the CEOs of partners Cisco, EMC and Dell attending.
The vision — one that very few IT operations have actually achieved — is to make IT services as predictable and reliable as phone service or electric power. You can call it grid computing, utility computing, or cloud computing, but the ideal is that any application be able to obtain the hardware resources it needs to avoid failing at any moment, automatically, no matter how large the spike in demand.
“We are helping IT organizations do what they have always dreamed of doing but have not been able to do with traditional IT technologies,” Gilmartin said.
Gilmartin put this goal in more concrete terms, saying that the aim is to cut operating and capital expenditures for all apps by over 50 percent while automating control and provisioning so that applications are independent of hardware, operating system, and service providers.
Fully automated datacenter clouds aren’t here yet, and the automation of service provider clouds isn’t either. In fact, although vSphere will enable service providers to provide cloud services, the most immediate benefits that the company is touting today come from private, local clouds.
Those clouds involve no third party and they are realized in the datacenters of the most demanding companies. One story the company told is about eBay: Gilmartin said that the e-commerce giant was able to triple the amount of Web traffic each server in its datacenter could handle using the technology.
That’s the efficiency part of the story. To achieve reliability, the new version of the software includes what it’s describing as “fault tolerance” that can run a real-time shadow version of itself on backup hardware. If the original fails, even if the power was lost in a moment, with no warning, vSphere will handle a seamless switchover to the backup, VMware aid.
Gilmartin noted that fault tolerance is only for the enterprise’s most demanding applications: less-important applications can use a feature that’s already in vSphere described as “high availability,” which backs up all but the most recent few minutes of an application.
Combined with VMware Data Recovery for backup and recovery and VMware’s VMotion data migration software, vSphere 4.0 aims to deliver technologies designed to achieve the goal of zero downtime.
Any software upgrade includes an increase in power, and the statistics of the maximum size of the virtual machine that enterprises can build with vSphere 4.0 represent a significant but incremental improvement: a single resource pool can now comprise up to 32 physical servers with up to 2,048 processor cores and 8,000 network ports utilizing 32 TB of RAM and 16 petabytes (PB) of storage to run 1,280 virtual machines.
VMware calls it the “mainframe of the 21st century.”
VMware’s vSphere 4.0 product is available in four versions for enterprise deployments and two versions for smaller IT environments.
Pricing is per processor and each processor can have up to 12 cores, up from six in the previous version of the software.
For enterprises, VMware vSphere Standard is priced at $795 per processor and includes basic features. Advanced, priced at $2,245 per processor, adds VMotion, fault tolerance, and some security features. Enterprise, priced at $2,875 per processor, adds power management and live storage migration.
Finally, Enterprise Plus, priced at $3,475 per processor, adds the rest of the features including the vNetwork
Distributed Switch for monitoring the most complex environments.
For small businesses, VMware vSphere Essentials starts at $995 for three servers, which the company says is equivalent to $166 per processor. Essentials Plus adds high availability and data protection and costs $2,995 for three servers, approximately $499 per processor.