Yesterday, VMware announced vSphere 4 - the successor to VI 3.5, and its association with vCloud - a relatively new initiative to provide local, private cloud computing environments in combination with third-party external cloud providers in an effort to provide high availability and remote access to cloud computing environments.
I Twittered (tweeted?) about the launch event while watching it via the web (watch the archive here), but you can't do much in 140 character bursts. The overall message that VMware is trying to convey is that with vSphere 4 there no reason that you cannot virtualize any of your servers/applications. Between vendor representatives and live demos, VMware showed that vSphere 4 is considerably more capable and more efficient with power, storage, and resources than its predecessors. That's mostly words for now, but I'm sure when it's released (Q2 2009, so very soon) there will be plenty of benchmarks and comparisons to look at.
Add to that vCloud--VMware's initiative to create a standardized cloud computing platform that enables enterprises to build their own, private cloud that can also be replicated to a live off-site cloud computing (SaaS) provider--and you've got yourself what looks to be a next-gen datacenter. Actually, this software, combined with the hardware that Cisco is now selling as part of its Unified Computing System, touches nearly all the bases. The only gaping hole I see is storage, but I'm sure VMware can put you in touch with EMC :) With that in place, you can run a number of OS's with whatever application delivery mechanism you like (web, SBC, VDI, traditional), all the while having your entire data center existing virtually in an off-site cloud.
Cool technology aside, for me the biggest takeaway as it relates to our niche and the things we talk about on this site is that there was very little talk about VDI or DaaS. That's not an accident - I really feel like this doesn't have a lot to do with VDI. In fact, this falls in a level below VDI or SBC or any other application delivery method. This is about data center virtualization, not application or desktop virtualization. VMware CEO Paul Maritz did mention that VMware View is the plumbing to connect users to the applications in the cloud, but that only serves to confirm that vSphere is not a VDI platform - it's a data center platform. In some ways, it's almost better to just think of vSphere as hardware--hardware that you can use to support whatever application delivery/VDI solution you want to use.
Some other thoughts:
- $3495 per processor! Holy frijoles! Admittedly, I'm not sure what a high end VI 3.5 license costs, but I do know that price means that a commodity, dual proc quad core box that runs what...$4k...will cost upwards of $11k by the time you add vSphere to it. Still, the same economies of scale apply - you can run, say, 10 (or whatever) servers on that one box, saving you $29k in hardware and a considerable amount on operational costs. The numbers work just fine in the end, but still...sticker shock!
- There was no word on the pricing for the vCloud SaaS stuff, but that's probably quite a bit more complex. If anyone has had any dealings with this kind of situation and can share any thoughts about the process, feel free to do so in the comments.
- Those "tweener" companies (as in be"tween" SMB and Enterprise) will stand to benefit from the SMB offerings. For some, the free ESXi and/or VMware Server work just fine, but there is a gray area that the vSphere SMB solutions should fill. If that can also be combined with vCloud for offsite federation of virtualized servers, I think that's a winner. SMB's typically aren't the best at keeping and maintaining backups (as well as extra hardware), so being able to have a hot-site-in-a-box would be extremely helpful.
Even though someone from VMware was probably not following my Twitter feed during the event, I'm going to choose to believe that someone read my tweet that said "I swear I see a rack full of Sun servers there. Someone should put an Oracle sticker on it," because about an hour later that's exactly what happened - a piece of paper with the word "Oracle" on it was stuck over top of the Sun logo.
The best line from this event came from John Chambers, CEO of Cisco. When talking about the relationship between VMware and Cisco, he said "really good execution will always beat good innovation," which is very close one of my all time favorite quotes by Steve Case, former AOL CEO & Chairmain: "In the end, a vision without the ability to execute is probably an hallucination."
I really enjoyed this from a presentation standpoint. Having been involved with the production side of events like this, I thought it was well done. Even the live demos went well (assuming they weren't pre-recorded :). There was still a fair share of marketing/gladhanding, but hey, it would've felt weird without it. So, to whoever put it together - nice job.