VMware Shifts the Virtualization Playing Field to Management

I took a shot at the industry watchers at Gartner recently for driving the SOA 2.0 bandwagon (''SOA 2.huh?'') but this week I have to give them props for preternaturally precise prognostication. In particular, Tom Bittman, Gartner VP and distinguished analyst, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing for an upcoming ADT feature on virtualization.

''Between now and the end of the year I expect VMware to change their pricing model again,'' he told me. ''I also think it's important for them to start shifting the argument from who has a good hypervisor to the management around it.''

On Monday, virtualization market monster VMware launched a new infrastructure suite and unveiled a new pricing and packaging scheme. (That's a dual-core bullseye for Gartner.)

VMware's Infrastructure 3 is designed to virtualize and aggregate industry-standard servers and their attached network and storage into unified resource pools. The product suite includes the company's flagship ESX Server 3 virtualization platform; refreshed versions of its VMotion, VirtualCenter 2, Virtual SMP, and Resource Pools management products; and four new products: the VMFS file system, the Distributed Resource Scheduler, the High Availability product, and the Consolidated Backup software.

The company is billing the product suite as ''the next generation'' of virtualization technology—a phrase guaranteed to make me wince and begin looking for the utterer's car so I can smear a pound of Velveeta under the driver's seat. But I think the folks in the VMware marketing department literally got it right this time. The first generation of hypervisor technology broke the bond between hardware and software. Subsequent technologies added the ability to consolidate servers. Now VMware wants to put everything—servers, storage, and the network—into a single resource pool. That seems like nextgen to me.

VMware is the thousand-pound gorilla in the virtualization space. The company, which is a subsidiary of EMC, has owned this market since its founders unearthed ''virtualization'' from the big-iron graveyard and reinvented it for x86 machines back in 1998. But competition has been heating up lately, one result of which, Bittman says, is a hastening of commoditization in the virtualization market. Thus, what might be seen as the inevitable shift to a management-tools emphasis.

VMware is also on a mission to bring the virtualization infrastructure to the masses through three ''easy-to-buy'' packages: the VMware Infrastructure Starter, an entry-level offering for small and medium businesses and branch and distributed locations within large companies; the VMware Infrastructure Standard, which is designed for consolidation of department-level environments; and VMware Infrastructure Enterprise, offered as ''the core strategic IT infrastructure for the dynamic data center.''

It's hard to believe there's an IT department on the planet that hasn't heard of virtualization, but Raghu Raghuram, VMware's intrepid VP of platform products, tells me that the three-level product packaging scheme also has something of a missionary purpose.

''We went out and talked with a whole set of companies and asked them why they are not using virtualization today,'' Raghuram says. ''The dominant answer was that they didn't know what the technology was or what it did. So we decided that the best way to get them educated and experiencing the benefits of virtualization was to give them a product that let them get day-to-day benefit from it.''

Infrastructure 3 is available now. For more details, check out the product page.

BTW: Be sure, also, to check out VMware prez and co-founder Diane Greene's new blog. On her maiden voyage into the blogosphere, Greene has kicked off what I hope will be a lively debate on virtual machine standards—which right now boils down to two: VMware's VMDK and Microsoft's VHD—and the question of whether virtualization technology should remain a separate layer or be tightly integrated with the operating system.

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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