VMware Launches vSphere 4, Its Operating System for the Cloud

UPDATED: vSphere 4 is basically the ESX 3.5 server with "many more updates to it," one analyst declared. The updated platform facilitates the delivery of IT infrastructure as a service to enterprise users, so their IT departments can build their own private cloud systems to provide business services internally for the company and for its trusted partners, supply chain participants and other business associates.

VMware on April 21 launched vSphere 4, a major update to its ESX Server hypervisor, declaring it to be the first operating system specifically engineered for cloud computing. It is the first major upgrade to the product since 2006.
vSphere 4 amounts to a rebuild of VMware's core virtualization platform. Fundamentally, it combines virtual resources in the data center into one centrally managed pool of computing power. It will be made available in the second quarter of 2009, the company said.
vSphere 4's second purpose is to facilitate delivery of IT infrastructure as a service to enterprises, so IT departments can build their own private cloud systems to provide business services internally for the company and for trusted partners, supply chain participants and other business associates.
In short, VMware wants to become the system of choice to run enterprise data centers, and further, to enable these complex systems to reach out and touch others in order to gain business advantages.
"Cloud computing has become known as the next big thing and is now sort of a buzzword, but we believe that with vSphere 4, we can make cloud computing a reality," Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's vice president of product marketing for servers, told eWEEK.
"It's the first iteration of VMware's virtualization as an enabler for cloud infrastructure. It scales higher, runs faster, offers more automated management technologies."
A lot of the recent talk about this new computing services model, Balkansky said, has been focused on public external clouds -- such as Amazon EC2 and S3, GoogleApps, Salesforce.com and others.
"Those will all have a very interesting effect on the industry, but we believe where the action is going to be in cloud computing, in the next few years, is helping companies build and transform their internal infrastructure into internal clouds, or internal cloud providers," Balkansky said.
"A company data center can act with efficiency [using this new operating system] and with the reliability of an internal utility provider, if they want."
vSphere 4 also provides the foundation for enterprise IT departments to connect their own homemade private clouds behind a firewall with those of partners -- or established public cloud services, such as those noted earlier.
Why Call It an OS?
Why is VMware calling this an operating system, rather than a cloud computing architecture? Operating systems, in the classical sense of the IT term, refer to products such as Microsoft Windows, Apple's Mac OS, Linux, Unix, and AIX.
"We're calling this an operating system because at a high level, an operating system does two things: It manages the hardware looking downward, and it provides interfaces or services with applications, looking upward," Balkansky said.
"An operating system typically is the mediator between applications and the hardware. Our technology is the first such software layer that installs on the bare metal. It provides two classes of services: A set of services to manage the hardware -- the servers, the storage and the network -- and a set of application services to provide availability, security and scalability to applications."
VMware designed vSphere 4 to be a non-disruptive force in the data center, Balkansky said. It works with virtually all other data center systems and is designed to slip into its own layer without disrupting workflows.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...