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What's Next From VMware: CTO Steve Herrod

VMware CTO goes one-on-one with InformationWeek's Charles Babcock at Interop 2012 to discuss the software-defined data center, the Citrix desktop rivalry, recent security concerns, and more.

Interop 2012 Product Preview
Interop 2012 Product Preview
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
And before a company can do that, it needs to get as close as possible to 100% virtualized across compute, storage, and networking. While a few companies are 100% virtualized, Herrod acknowledged that most are struggling to get their big mission-critical systems--such as Oracle databases and SAP ERP applications--virtualized. That move would carry many of them up into the 70% range. To get to the software-defined data center will require additional effort to migrate or isolate legacy systems that remain un-virtualized.

VMware is positioned well to advocate the software-defined data center. The company is pushing its 14-month-old vCenter Operations product as the configuration, performance, and capacity management piece of the virtualized data center. That means it must collect data from underlying hardware devices, not just virtual machines. And the physical infrastructure has been the traditional domain of systems management vendors like HP, IBM, BMC, and CA Technologies.

As more of the data center becomes virtualized, VMware seeks to manage both types of resources--hardware and software--and use data from systems management products to get the information it needs. Conventional systems management "assumes that one application is assigned to one server location and remains that way forever. VMware's vMotion [or live migration of running virtual machines] will have different applications popping up on different servers," said Herrod. It requires a new form of systems management, which VMware will provide in vCenter Operations.

In the end, the software-defined data center will be collecting massive amounts of data on running systems. "It will be a big data challenge to view operations, take a look at trends, and extract how things are working," Herrod said. VMware's approach to virtualization management "will be a bigger and bigger part of how the data center of the future is managed." Even though VMware sees itself as the right party to do the final analysis, Herrod said, "It won't be just one tool. We'll have to plug into existing systems management products."

Herrod also acknowledged that VMware was lagging behind Citrix Systems when it came to the display of virtual desktops to end users. Citrix had market leadership and more experience than any other vendor in virtualizing end user applications and implementing desktop display protocols, he said. "We absolutely were catching up. There were two big areas in which we were challenged: remote desktop display and an ability to display on multiple clients. With the release of VMware View 5.1 and VMware's implementation of the end user, display-oriented PCoIP protocol, "many analysts said we have closed the gap." View 5.1 included a multiple device client, View Client, that allowed a virtualized end user workspace to be shown on different devices, a match finally for Citrix' Receiver.

In addition, Herrod said, VMware is innovating by adding the Horizon application manager product, "the future switchboard operator" or broker between end user applications and data sources. Through Horizon, a wide variety of end users can be connected to the applications they need.

Another new product still in beta is Project Octopus, which will be a secure, enterprise version of DropBox, the popular, online file sharing site. VMware will provide identity management and privilege assignment through Octopus (to be renamed as a product), which will give employees of a company a means of securely sharing data and files.

On the topic of security, Herrod said VMware customers should not be alarmed by the exposure of a file of 2003-2004 ESX Server source code by a hacker named Hardcore Charlie. Even if more code is exposed at some point, Herrod said, VMware's security team is constantly testing the code for any possible hacker openings and providing protective measures to keep intruders out. Herrod conceded that interest in ESX Server source code is probably strong in the hacker community, given the value of the systems running on it. But exposed code is not the same thing as insecure code and VMware intends to maintain a high bar when it comes to security, he said.

Herrod is the former director of software at Transmeta. He joined VMware in 2001 and emphasized that VMware is a technology company for the enterprise.

"For the whole life of a company, employees have wanted to do something and IT has said, 'no.' The core of what VMware is doing is to make IT a friend of the business' needs again. It's making IT the party that says, 'yes.'"

Find out how to move beyond server virtualization to build a more flexible, efficient data center in the new Private Cloud Blueprint issue of Network Computing. (Free registration required.)

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