eWEEK Labs' First Take on VMware vSphere 4: Impressive

VMware's demonstration of vSphere 4--the successor to Infrastructure 3 and ESX 3.5--shows that the "cloud operating system" sets the stage for virtualization to fully enter the data center.

VMware's announcement April 21 of vSphere 4-the successor to VMware's Infrastructure 3 and ESX 3.5-sets the stage for virtualization technology to fully enter the data center, enabling nearly every application to be virtualized.

Positioned as a cloud computing operating system, vSphere 4 will be offered in versions for everything from modest-sized businesses to the largest enterprises.

During VMware's live demonstration, the Enterprise Plus version (the top of the heap) was used. The numbers are impressive: as many as 12 processor cores, vSMP support for eight-way processors, no license limit for memory per physical server-although 256GB is the limit for all other editions-and new fault tolerance and host profiles.

Server density, availability and deployment all look impressive-and are head and shoulders over competitors, whether open source or from Microsoft.

It's hardly surprising that storage advances are a big part of the new feature set in VMware vSphere. Guests need virtual disks and data storage. Improvements in Storage VMotion including enhancements in thin provisioning and tiered storage will likely give IT managers a significant bit of breathing room as more applications are virtualized.

There was an impressive fault tolerance demonstration given during the announcement presentation: An instance of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server was running on a blade that was unceremoniously removed from its chassis. The application continued to serve up e-mail even as vSphere automatically created a new lockstep guest to maintain the fault-tolerant configuration.

There are all sorts of implementation details I'll look at when I get vSphere into our San Francisco lab. For example, what are the limits on physical separation of the lockstep systems? But, all in all, vSphere looked impressive.

Much was made of VMware's participation in building cloud infrastructure that is in use today. It will be interesting to see-both in the lab and in actual installations-how far individual enterprise data center operators will go toward putting applications in the private cloud. Perhaps an even bigger question is to what extent-and when-will data center equipment that runs mission-critical applications be included in public/private cloud configurations. Will it make sense to dump the private data center-and it's associated operational costs-altogether?

I'm at the RSA security conference as I write these words. From the keynotes to the expo show floor, security in the virtual computing world is front and center.

The reason for the attention is that vendors and practitioners see an opportunity to "do security right." Virtualization is as close as we're going to get to an infrastructure do-over.