VMware Tests Data Center OS to Manage, Literally, Everything

It outlines a vision for turning x86-based data centers into one big resource pool.

By Patrick Thibodeau
Wed, September 17, 2008

Computerworld(Computerworld) VMware Inc. believes every business can be like a Google Inc. and have a data center that is highly efficient and automated—and eventually so completely virtualized it operates not as a collection of networked machines but as a living organism.

The company and its new CEO Paul Maritz hope to wow the 14,000 people expected at its annual conference this week with a vision of a data center anchored to a list of new products, where every resource in it—storage, networking and servers—can shift and respond with fluidity to business needs. Since these products aren't due until sometime next year, underscore the word vision in this announcement.

The planned cornerstone product is VMware's Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS) for managing the underlying systems, or "internal cloud." Desktops and laptops are part of this virtualization umbrella, with their operating systems running in a virtual machine on the client computer that is managed back from the data center. VMware also wants to make it possible for IT managers to seamlessly tap into the resources of third-party hosting providers in the same way they can now move server resources inside their data center. It calls this new technology vCloud.

VMworld's vision isn't new, and it has limits. The idea of turning data centers into virtual pools of resources that don't hurt application performance or security, avoid vendor lock-in, and are automated enough to swiftly adapt to business needs is the Holy Grail of enterprise IT. And VMware isn't promising it.

VMware's product set, including its VDC-OS, is limited to x86 architectures. That's why Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's senior director of product marketing, in an interview late last week cited Google as the example of IT's Parthenon and not the data center of some other Fortune 100 company. Google has standardized on x86. Most other large companies and many midsize firms also have environments that include RISC-based servers, Unix operating systems and midrange systems running Cobol-based applications that have been developed over decades—not on the new systems that Google has bought and built in its 10 short years.

Balkansky said he believes that history is moving to the x86 architecture and that the hardware, with large amounts of memory—and processing capability such as the six-core Xeon chip Intel Corp. is announcing today—will only expand its market share at the expense of Unix. Even so, "I'm not saying that Unix is going to go away," he said.

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