Virtualization: Making Seductive Promises a Reality

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rahul Neel Mani

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VMware is certainly not giving up its position in the hypervisor market but that’s not something the company banks on. Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware speaks about how the company will rule the world in data center automation and management space...

Q:What trends do you think the industry has witnessed to reach the stage virtualisation is in today? 

A: The industry has witnessed three distinct stages to reach to the evolved stage of virtualisation. The first stage was when the industry tackled inefficient hardware in the data centre and brought in efficient hardware.

The second stage was when the industry was looking forward to resiliency in the line of business applications. The third and more contemporary stage is when the industry looked for a fundamentally more agile environment to serve the needs of business.

The industry saw a very interesting trend last year. IDC reports mentioned that it was the first time in the history that applications deployed on virtualised servers surpassed the applications deployed on physical servers. It is clear where the focus of action needs to be.

The technology spans the globe and our customers range from the Healthcare to Dairy Farms to the Fashion industry. In the year 2010, more than 10 million virtual machines will be deployed worldwide - growing at 28 percent year on year. VMware already serves 190,000 customers around the world. This technology has touched the entire economy.

Q:What will this tipping point mean to the industry?

A: There are interesting indications coming out from the developments in the industry. As I mentioned earlier, there are now more applications on virtualised infrastructure than on physical.

Now the enterprises no longer require investing more in mediating hardware. In other words, this cost saved from the hardware is largely taken over by an entirely new layer of software that we call extended virtualisation.

That extended virtualisation layer is not only mediating access with other resources like CPU, memory, storage, networking etc. It is this layer which is forming a new layer in the infrastructure. It is this layer which is increasingly becoming the focus of innovation in the industry. This is not only true for VMware but for the entire industry.

Q:Do you think this innovation, as you call it, is going to gain acceptance? Will there be challenges?

A: There are a few things which we should look at. This layer has started providing hardware efficiency which will increasingly result in operational efficiency. We all know that approximately 60-70 percent of all IT dollars are spent in operating hardware in the data centre.

We would like to take our customers on a journey where they can build resiliency, agility and efficiency. That would mean the addition of an automation layer into this. We need to make it cheaper so that enterprises can operate this infrastructure.

The automation management has to span across the resources in the data centre. The industry, including ourselves, sees itself focusing now on the challenges around data centre automation and data centre management.

Q: What could be the possible blockages to speed of this innovation?

A: Another very key need is enhanced security. The industry needs to ensure that this new infrastructure not only delivers improved security of the current physical infrastructure, but goes beyond to address the needs of logical infrastructure that is being built.

Traditionally security is handled by putting checks at physical boundaries. VMware is pioneering the work in this direction and has announced a slew of new products.

Q:How will this whole infrastructure be consumed?

A: It is very interesting to watch how this infrastructure will be consumed and paid for. How will this increased automation, management and security be manifested inside the data centre? Industry calls this private cloud.

To me, private cloud is a collective effect of the three innovations I have spoken about. I think private cloud not only needs coordination between automation, management and security but new constructs to interact with the infrastructure. One of those key constructs is virtual data centres.

Virtual data centre is a collection of applications and services sharing common set of policies. This construct will instigate new ways of buying and utilising IT. It is important to know on whose books the capital expenditure will reside.

It is a very seductive promise but to make it a reality, the industry will have to work together. This includes players in the private cloud and an eco-system of service providers. The dream of putting these mammoth applications on to a virtual infrastructure will also require a whole set of standards that need to be addressed by the industry.

Q:When you talk about VMware addressing the data centre automation and management space, are you going to compete with the likes of HP, CA or BMC?

A: This is a false notion. We are not going into the space of enterprisewide management framework. VMware is going to provide a private cloud that users can operate efficiently with appropriate management tools for that cloud.

That is the difference between VMware on one side and CA, BMC and HP on the other. This is more akin to distributed operating systems than to enterprise management systems.

Q:Do you think the role of OS is diminishing in today’s infrastructure?

A: We need to say where the innovation is occurring. Traditionally OS did two things. They coordinated the hardware and provided services to applications. The innovation in how hardware is coordinated today and how services are provided to applications is no longer happening inside the traditional operating system.

The innovation is now happening in the virtualisation layer. The innovation is around how to deliver a truly automated data centre.

On the other hand, innovation is occurring in new programming frameworks. That is where the developer productivity is yielded today. If you are a programmer involved in writing apps using “Ruby on Rails” framework there is an operating system involved somewhere but it is almost irrelevant to you.

Most programmers don’t care for it. I didn’t mean to say operating systems are going to die but we have to focus on where the innovation is going to happen.

Q: Virtualisation is great but don’t you think there will be a huge challenge when it comes to security, governance and compliance?

A: It is an important aspect. But my answer to this is that there isn’t a single silver bullet to get to a perfect stage. We are playing our role by working with the industry and allowing them to take up the capabilities that are built and apply those in this new highly dynamic virtualised world.

As I said earlier, it was easier to keep a check on who came in and went out of the physical data centre. In the hybrid cloud environment, users won’t necessarily have a physical data centre. It can be quite fluid. We are working with various industry players to develop techniques to provide a secure and compliant environment.

Q: Microsoft is catching up fast with you in this market. It claims to be leading the pack now. How would you defend that?

A: When we talk of numbers being quoted by the industry players, we have to be careful in what is to be counted and what not. Just between VMware and Microsoft there are many versions of Hypervisor – some of these are free and some are paid.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency to count some and not the others, which brings a very different statistic on market share. If you go by the serious usage of Hypervisor in the businesses, we have the largest market share by any means.

That being said, Microsoft is a company with enormous resources. They sense the same change as we do. They are increasingly shifting their capabilities to address the same issues as we are addressing. One thing I have learnt after spending 30 years in the industry is that money can’t buy you time.

The key point here is that it is no longer about the hypervisor. It is about how you stitch all the resources in the data centre together into a coherent, usable, secure environment. That means, you have to be able to work with not just with traditional hypervisor technologies but you have to coordinate, storage, networking, security etc. VMware is no more a hypervisor company.

If you want a hypervisor for free we have one. We no longer make money by selling hypervisor. We make money by selling data centre automation and management.

Cross-posted from CTO Forum

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