by Kevin Fogarty

VMworld Preview: Vendors Fight to Fill Gaps in Cloud, Virtual Infrastructures

Aug 25, 20094 mins
Cloud ComputingVirtualization

VMworld, VMware's premier event for customers and partners, kicks off next week in San Francisco. Here's a look at what's on tap from VMware as well as EMC, HP, vKernel and Stratus.

IT vendors tend to hold off major announcements until after Labor Day, when customers, presumably, will be paying more attention to work than summer vacation planning. The end-of-August scheduling of VMworld in San Francisco will push that deadline as VMware announces tweaks to its own products and ISVs try to jump-start their marketing to take advantage of what analysts are calling a fundamental IT shift toward cloud computing and virtualization. Here’s a look at what to expect from VMware and others at next week’s event.

[ For timely virtualization news and expert advice on strategy, see’s Virtualization Drilldown section. ]

EMC is scheduled to announce a series of professional-service and consulting services designed to improve the design and implementation of cloud and virtual infrastructures. The Burton Group will be doing a live functional comparison among leading hypervisors and discussing the criteria that led it to pick VMware as the top hypervisor earlier this year.

Hewlett-Packard plans to announce a new set of management and administration products designed specifically for VMware vCenter, as well as a set of new implementation services and a new application designed to monitor all the software and hardware connected to a VMware infrastructure.

Two-year-old vKernel also plans to demonstrate its Optimization Pack, a capacity analyzer and set of tools designed to measure the capacity of hardware, storage and networks in a virtual infrastructure to help customers pack as many as twice the number of virtual machines into a given server as they once could, according to Kevin Coughlin, the company’s VP of marketing and product development.

Stratus Technologies plans to demonstrate Avance 1.6, its software-only fault-tolerant server designed specifically for virtual environments. The software, which costs $5,000 is designed to give customers “four-and-a-half nines availability of critical applications, at a fraction the cost of traditional hardware-based Stratus fault-tolerant servers, according to Tom Joyce, VP and general manager of Stratus’ Avance business unit. The Avance software (designed to be installed on a pair of x86-based servers) is based on a hardened version of the open-source XenServer and includes support for an unlimited number of virtual machines, Joyce says.

VMware: Think Cloud Management

Most of the announcements echo VMware’s own recent focus on helping customers build and maintain both internal and external cloud-computing environments, which will be a primary focus of the conference, according to Tod Nielsen, VMware’s chief operating officer.

The company has also promised to talk about its VMware Client desktop infrastructure product, but will focus primarily on making cloud computing palatable to mainstream IT executives concerned about manageability, security and other risks, according to Chris Wolf, data-center strategy analyst at The Burton Group.

Cloud computing is so pervasive an idea that it’s driving major changes in the kind of conversations going on between CIOs and business unit managers in many companies, Wolf says.

“One of the problems cloud computing poses is it gives businesses the option of getting their information technology from providers other than their internal IT people,” Wolf says. “So there are all these conversations going on where the business units are saying ‘Cloud providers can give us this for X-dollars, can you match that cost structure?'”

With the threat of potential outsourcing and resulting budget cuts and the relatively unproven nature of cloud technology, many companies are reluctant to invest the time and effort into building the services-oriented architecture (SOA) that would enable them to provide cloud-like services internally.

“It’s frustrating for our clients, because most of them don’t see [external] cloud as a viable option right now,” Wolf says. “The capacity is there, but it will be years before all the management and security is in place to provide a mainstream infrastructure. It’s more of a scare tactic from the business units, but it’s a significant threat that there will be some displacement of IT in favor of these providers.”

Despite the pressure to add some cloud services and frequent testing large companies do with them, there’s no rush to put important corporate applications or data into the cloud, according to Rich Mogull, a former Gartner analyst who now runs the Securosis, L.L.C security consultancy.

The security and policy based controls are so undefined in those environments that companies can’t be sure their data hasn’t been hacked from outside, let along maintain controls and reporting required for regulatory compliance on sensitive data, he says.

The focus for most companies, and most vendors pushing into cloud or virtual computing, should be on getting all the hatches battened down for internal clouds or SOA structures before trying to build and secure the intersection of a defined and well-controlled internal IT structure and one or more cloud services, Mogull says.

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