VMware Launches “Cloud OS” vSphere

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Upgrade to virtual infrastructure product boosts fault-tolerance and expands to smaller businesses, as well as including networks and storage

Virtualisation giant VMware has launched a platform that combines servers, storage and networks within data centres into one scalable resource, at the same time extending its virtualised services to better support fault-tolerance and smaller data centres.

The announcement, which VMware is billing as “the first operating system for the internal cloud”, will be presented in the US by four CEOs, with earlier briefings given under embargo, including one in London. The main plank is a long-anticipated upgrade from VMware’s Virtual Infrastructure product version 3, with increased support for virtualised storage and networking, making it able to support a whole virtualised data centre that can operate across internal resources and public clouds such as those provided by Amazon.

“Everyone else makes users jump the chasm between the internal and the external cloud,” said Northern Europe director Matt Piercy at the London event. “We combine the two to make a private cloud.” The combination, like a virtual private network is based on public infrastructure, but “feels like it’s yours,” he said.

Stressing the openness of vSphere, he said: “You have not checked into the Hotel California of cloud computing for ever.” Just as a server operating system deals with the complexities of the hardware and supports applications, vSphere would do that for the whole data centre, he said.

Compared with VMware Infrastructure 3, vSPhere offers a 30 percent increase in consolidation ratios, allowing more virtual servers to be run on the same hardware, claimed Frederick Sjostedt, director of product marketing, EMEA. It will also save about 50 percent on storage thanks to thin provisioning, he said, as well as saving an additional 20 percent on power and cooling, as a distributed power management feature uses VMware’s VMotion feature to move all virtual machines onto as few physical servers as possible, so others can be switched off. “The power savings from all VMware vSphere 4 customers over one year could power a country the size of Denmark for 10 days,” he claimed.

The product increases fault tolerance over previous versions, by allowing two virtual machines to run in lock-step on different servers, explained Sjostedt, describing the back-up virtual machine as a “silent clone”.

Because of the integration with virtualised networks, made possible through a partnership with Cisco, vSphere can also move virtual machines onto different servers while preserving their security and network settings, he explained.

“The biggest benefit is the network capability,” said Roy Illsley, analyst at the Butler Group, at the London launch. It is also the most intriguing, as it closely ties VMware to Cisco, just at the point when Cisco is entering the server part of the data centre. VMware executives and the Cisco speaker  – Wendy Mars, Cisco operations director for system engineers in Europe – all refused to comment on any developments in the relationship between the two companies.

The product will extend into smaller data centres than VMware has previously reached with an SMB version called Essentials which starts at $995 for a basic implementation on three servers which manages VMware’s free ESXi bare metal hypervisor on three servers, and a fuller version called Essentials Plus for $2995.

In VMware’s traditional market, larger datacentres, there are Standard, Advanced, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus configurations, from $795 to $3495 per CPU. According to which version of VI 3 they have, existing customers on contracts will get a free upgrade to one or other of these versions, gaining vStorage, vNetwork and other features.

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