VMware Fixing Flaws Found After ESX, ESXi 3.5 Update Problems

In a letter to customers, new VMware CEO Paul Maritz expresses his concerns with the way the virtualization company handled the fallout after releasing a faulty update for its ESX and ESXi 3.5 virtualization products. In his letter, Maritz wrote that VMware needs to improve its communications with customers and will invest money into improving how VMware virtualization products are installed and updated.

VMware is promising customers that it will improve the way it installs and updates its vast array of virtualization products, following serious issues those same customers faced after the virtualization company released a faulty update for its ESX and ESXi products.

In a Sept. 11 e-mail to customers, VMware CEO and President Paul Maritz further apologized for the problems that customers experienced when VMware sent out its Update 2 patch for the 3.5 versions of ESX and ESXi on Aug. 12. The e-mail went on to note that the company plans to improve its communication with customers, while investing in better ways to deploy and update its virtualization products.

"We have initiated a major examination and evaluation of our product release and quality assurance processes," wrote Maritz. "This effort has yielded a number of areas for improvement, and we have already begun making needed changes."

The problems with the Update 2 patch were traced back to a time element flaw that VMware engineers mistakenly left in the update before it shipped out to customers. This "time bomb" within the software meant that the ESX and ESXi products would not run after a certain date and time. Once the time and date hit-Aug. 12 at 12:00 a.m.-the virtual machines running on the ESX hypervisor shut down and some other products, such as Vmotion, did not work at all.

By the next day, VMware had issued a temporary patch for those customers that downloaded Update 2, and the company fully fixed the Update 2 patch on Aug. 14. While it's not clear how many customers suffered problems, the issue was significant enough that Maritz issued an apology on a company blog and then sent out the Sept. 11 letter to customers.

In the latest letter, Maritz said VMware has eliminated all "time-out" codes from all maintenance code releases for enterprise products and the company will eliminate the practice of using a time-out code in other products.

The letter also ensures customers that VMware will add a new type of quality control mechanisms and improve communication between the company and its customers.

In addition, Maritz wrote that VMware will invest a significant amount of money in how its delivers and services and virtualization products. For those interested in seeing this technology up close, Maritz is urging customers to sign up for a beta version of the VMware Infrastructure suite and other products.

"We will continue to ensure that VMware products are designed to support the reliability, availability and serviceability needs of enterprise production environments," wrote Maritz.

"We are investing significant resources towards improving how our products are installed and upgraded (such as with VMware Update Manager), developing more technology enablers that work to eliminate downtime (e.g. Storage VMotion) and redesigning how licensing and activation work."

The last three months have brought VMware a wave of negative publicity as it prepares for its VMworld conference in Las Vegas, which kicks off Sept. 16. Maritz, a former Microsoft executive, took the CEO's chair after EMC-the parent company of VMware-ousted Diane Greene, the former CEO and a co-founder of VMware.

After other top executives resigned, Mendel Rosenblum, VMware's chief scientist, co-founder and husband on Greene, announced he would also leave the company on Sept. 8 and return to a full-time teaching career at Stanford University.

Microsoft and Sun Microsystems have announced a number of new virtualization products and services in the week leading up to the VMworld show, which shows that both companies are serious about challenging VMware's dominance in the x86 virtualization market.