VMware Embraces the Cloud

With Microsoft promising fierce competition, VMware rolls out a road map for cloud computing at VMworld Europe. VMware's cloud computing strategy includes initiatives such as allowing customers to link between private and external clouds, and the total virtualization of the traditional data center via VDC-OS, the Virtual Datacenter Operating System.

VMware CEO and President Paul Maritz offered a road map for his company's future in cloud computing on Feb. 24 at VMworld Europe.

Maritz used the forum in Cannes, France, to set out what VMware sees as the components fundamental to building a private cloud. As he stated at the beginning of his presentation, IT departments today spend too much effort "tending to the plumbing, as opposed to [doing] the things that give competitive differentiation."

Maritz continued, "So we're setting about using virtualization as the foundation to turn IT into a service to help IT become fundamentally easier to do, more flexible and more efficient."

In VMware's eyes, the future means embracing a cloud computing strategy, built on taking industry-standard hardware building blocks and then layering on software that allows scalability.

Toward that end, Maritz said, VMware has structured the unification of its cloud efforts around a few key initiatives:

  • VDC-OS (Virtual Datacenter Operating System): VMware considers this "the foundation of the cloud." In Maritz's words, the VSC-OS is a "new substrate of software that provides the foundation ... for an internal cloud, allowing IT to operate more like a hosting provider inside the data center, as well as a foundation for external clouds." The first tangible example of a VDC-OS will ship sometime in 2009, according to the company, which declined to provide a retail price.

  • The VMware vCloud Initiative: First announced at VMworld Las Vegas 2008, this initiative will see federations created between internal and external clouds. Maritz describes this initiative as one that "extends choice" for clients that may already possess an internal cloud to "procure or rent your infrastructure from a service provider" as needed. The key to achieving this federation is building compatibility between a client's internal cloud and an external cloud, so that the private cloud can pull in resources from the outside, with common management across all spheres.

  • The VMware vClient Initiative: Maritz's presentation also included a slide about vClient, also originally announced at VMworld Las Vegas 2008. Scheduled for introduction in 2009, the initiative allows desktops to follow users to any endpoint via universalized clients that are easy for an IT department to manage.

"Extending the virtues of virtualization to client-side computing," Maritz said at the beginning of the presentation, would help "turn the provisioning of end-user computing into more of a service, as well."

The announcements at VMworld Europe build on a keynote address given by Maritz at the VMworld conference in Las Vegas in September 2008.

"The big buzzword is cloud," Maritz said in that September speech. "We are moving fundamentally away from a device-centric world."

He stepped into the driver's seat at VMware at an auspicious time for the company, replacing co-founder and former CEO Diane Greene in 2008. Currently, VMware is wrestling with the challenge presented by Citrix Systems and Microsoft Hyper-V in the virtualization space.

"VMware has done a very good job of staying ahead of the pack," Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said in an interview. "Vendors tend to define the cloud and the benefits of the cloud by whatever their strong suits are, and I think what VMware is doing here is stating that, without virtualization, the cloud wouldn't exist."

King added, "By broadening the subject to talk about what a cloud could potentially be, while maintaining the focus on what they do best-virtualization-what they've done today is plant a flag."