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VMware Ends vRAM, Goes All in on the vDataCenter

The VMware brass takes the stage at VMworld to announce a top-down and bottom-up approach that promises better support for integration and better management of storage and networking in its software-defined data center vision.

Paul Maritz and Pat Gelsinger kicked off VMworld in San Francisco today with a message: It's all about the private cloud for VMware--and to get there, it intends to do what it can to tackle all objections to VMware virtualization. Even going so far as to drop vRAM entitlements.

CEO Maritz was on stage just long enough to paint a grand picture and to introduce his successor, Gelsinger. Then it was onto the vendor's plans for the coming year.

According to the company, its typical customer has virtualized 60% of its workload and set a three-year goal of helping those customers get beyond 90%. Gelsinger said he recognizes that to do so, VMware will have to answer questions at the infrastructure and application levels--at least some of the answers can be found in the company's new vCloud Suite and in its newest version of vSphere, 5.1.

Other answers can be found by addressing issues like the resource charges announced after last year's event. Objections to the charges, which were in the form of vRAM entitlements on top of its per-CPU pricing, came from two fronts: First, that by charging for vRAM, the company was vastly changing the way architects looked at provisioning physical servers. Second, certain applications that are extremely memory intensive could not economically run on vSphere with the entitlements in place.

The company addressed the first problem by raising vRAM limits. Then, as applications like in-memory databases and the desire to drive into high-performance computing applications caught the imagination of VMware honchos, it became clear: vRAM entitlements simply had to go.

While the simplified cost model may have gotten the biggest applause of the day, there was plenty more for the VMware faithful to like. Gelsinger probably uttered the words ecosystem and partner in today's presentation more than he ever has publicly before--that's saying something for a guy with roots at Intel. While VMware is cozying back up to EMC, presenters today went to great lengths to assure the audience that it was still all about the ecosystem.

From a consortium of vendors to help with virtual data center operations, to a better API for managed service delivery to its cloud foundry, Gelsinger hammered away at how VMware would work from the top down to make applications run better, as well as work from the bottom up to permit better infrastructure management and allow partners to expose more services.

CTO Steve Herrod also took the stage to offer details. Think it's a terrible idea to run Hadoop on VMware? Herrod showed a demo of how to create and scale up and down Hadoop clusters, and assured the audience that performance improvements meant that all that VMware management goodness didn't come at the expense of Hadoop performance.

Where is VMware taking it's APIs? With the new version, one can think of rolling out services like database as a service, or backup as a service. That makes the private VMware cloud start to look a lot more like the service-oriented public clouds from the likes of Amazon. It comes as no surprise that the first to offer such services in your private cloud will be EMC--with Avamar. VMware vSphere Data Protection, announced today, appears to use the APIs that Herrod touted in his presentation.

On the infrastructure side, Gelsinger announced that VMware's deal to buy Nicira closed last Thursday. The company also announced much better management of storage resources, including a new vVol construct as well as virtual flash. VMware will also manage direct-attached storage and will allow migration of VMs without a shared storage infrastructure. Both are new directions for the company and will help most customers move toward its vision of more than 90% of workloads virtualized in the data center.

All in all, this year's opening presentation signaled the new VMware that's been taking shape for the past few months. The company is refocused on driving toward fully virtualized software-defined data centers all managed by VMware software. The company isn't there yet, but it's much further along than any of its competitors. Art Wittmann is a former editor for InformationWeek. View Full Bio

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