VMware vSphere5 Aims to Streamline Cloud Provisioning

Analysis: With the launch of vSphere 5, VMware is greasing the proverbial skids when it comes to making cloud provisioning "easy." But under the hood, the technology certainly is not simple by any measure.

With VMware's launch of vSphere 5 on July 12, the company that has produced a lot of complicated IT designed expressly for IT experts has come up with a new angle: Cloud infrastructure for the rest of the business set.
While that certainly is an over simplication, simplification is really where VMware is aiming. With a presence of some sort in about 90 percent of the world's virtualized IT systems, a good number of data center administrators already can create a virtual machine, identify and connect the storage, and add all the other trimmings. At least that's the way VMware sees it.
Now, however, as drop-down menus, do-it-yourself wizards and pre-configured software packages become more commonplace, more folks from departments other than IT are getting in there and provisioning storage, creating new VMs, determining backup windows, and who knows what else.
VMware -- along with several other providers -- is greasing the proverbial skids when it comes to making all of this seem easy. Under the hood, it certainly is not simple by any measure, but continually improving interfaces (Web-based and otherwise), pre-configured menus of choices, and more eligible endpoint devices make it appear that way to the user.
A bit of background: vSphere 5 is a cloud computing infrastructure suite that essentially is a one-stop virtualization shop-mainly for midrange companies and SMBs-to run new-generation data centers. vSphere 5 is the largest integrated software product ever launched by VMware, adding four completely new modules-(vCloud Director, vShield 5.0, vCenter SRM 5.0 and vSphere Storage Appliance (optional)-to a system that once contained only vCenter Operations.
vSphere 5: Point Products Gathered Together
All were separate point products previously. "It's like what we did at Microsoft years ago when I was there," CEO Paul Maritz told press conference attendees July 12. "We looked around and saw we had Word, PowerPoint, Excel and other single business software [applications], and we decided to put them together to make Office." VMware also announced that it has made available an iPad version of the management interface in the Apple App Store.
vSphere 5 includes about 200 new and enhanced capabilities, including features that improve application performance and availability while automating the management of an increasing range of data center resources.
VMware has upped the ante in connections between enterprise virtualization, business-critical computing and the cloud, veteran IT analyst Charles King of Pund-IT wrote in a report July 13.
"'Synergy' is all too common a term in IT, with the result that it can be difficult to sort out truly synergistic solutions from scads of wannabe clich??«s," King said. "That said, VMware's vSphere 5 and the host of technologies and solutions surrounding it seem to be the real thing. Not only do the company's new offerings build considerably on previous technologies but they use the vSphere foundation to extend VMware's presence in and influence over related areas, including cloud computing and business critical applications and processes."
Do VMware's announcements have any weak or confusing spots?
"Actually, yes," King said. "The vSphere Storage Appliance seems like an intriguing notion, but turning onboard server hard drives into virtual storage pools seems like a fairly esoteric subject for most SMBs. That's certainly a niggling point likely to be eclipsed by the company's decision to replace its physical CPU core- and RAM-based licensing with a new model based on total vRAM.
"While the new scheme seems reasonable -- especially in light of the highly flexible memory of vSphere 5 -- it is also likely that many customers will feel confused if not put upon by the changes. That said, the overall tone and direction of the vSphere 5 launch reflects and is likely to help continue driving VMware's upward trajectory."
Partners Offer Their Perspective
Naturally, when a company as influential as VMware comes out with a new product, its partners have to make adjustments in their own product lines.
For example, Hewlett-Packard said July 12 that it and VMware have jointly optimized HP's Converged Storage with vSphere 5 to deliver an updated storage infrastructure designed for virtualization and cloud computing. Only through integration between VMware and HP Converged Storage can users deploy VMware vSphere-based servers on the same physical infrastructure as storage for greater density and lower power footprint.
Hitachi Data Systems' Michael Heffernan, who serves as the company's global product manager of server virtualization, wrote in his blog: "Hats off to VMware for the innovation in vSphere 5. Whether customers are moving to the cloud today or tomorrow, optimizing IT and scaling the infrastructure is a foundational step, and it does not happen overnight."
The challenge, however, is that not all vendors are created equal in their approach to the cloud or in their ability to support vSphere 5, Heffernan wrote.
"HDS has been working closely with VMware and the combination of vSphere 5.0 and Hitachi AMS and VSP storage systems will enable servers to operate more efficiently, reduce operational complexity and deliver this new functionality with vSphere 5.0 to legacy storage systems through unique storage virtualization technology behind VSP."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...