VMware CTO Details Future Of Virtualization

Speaking at VMworld, Stephen Herrod foresees virtual data centers recovering from disaster before users realize a disaster has occurred.

September 3, 2009

3 Min Read
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VMware CTO Stephen Herrod took the blinders off technologist's ability to see into the future Wednesday and conjured high speed, high quality presentations on virtual desktops. Speaking at the VMworld event in San Francisco, Herrod also foresaw virtual data centers being recovered from disaster before their users realized a disaster had occurred.

VMware is hard at work on adapting a protocol for delivering an enriched PC experience virtually over a standard network to its virtual desktop product set. PCoIP, as it is called, aims to square one of the bugaboos of desktop virtualization -- the degraded user experience, when it comes to viewing full motion video, intense multi-media presentations or high resolution graphics.

Without accelerated network links between virtualized servers and end users, the virtual desktop tends to spur user complaints, and put the brakes on implementation. A year ago, VMware announced it was licensing the PCoIP protocol from Teradici, a Burnaby, British Columbia, company founded in 2004. The protocol was designed for delivering rich user presentations over a TCIP/IP or other network. Herrod said that work continues and PCoIP-powered products will be available from VMware by the end of the year.

He also cited the possibility of implementing disaster recovery as a last minute exercise where the IT manager moves all servers from an existing facility to a backup site, even though it may be 120 miles away or more. Herrod was talking about what's become known as the possibility of long distance VMotion, where a running virtual machine is transferred off one physical server and onto another as much as 200 kilometers -- or 124 miles -- away.

Cisco Systems (NSDQ: CSCO) has demonstrated the capability with specialized switching gear, as has F5 Networks on its Big IP networking equipment, Herrod said. "For mainstream use, this is still a ways out," he conceded in a press conference after his keynote talk at VMworld. VMware will have to work with networking partners to put together a combination of software and equipment that would allow such long distance transfers.Still, when a wildfire is coming up the mountain side toward your data center, the ability to send it off to a distant location might not be such a bad idea. Long distance VMotion might have uses in addition to forestalling disaster. For example, they could be used to migrate virtual machines from data center to data center around the world, in a path following the sun, Herrod noted.

Even more innovative would be migrating data centers around the world to "follow the moon" and take advantage of lower cost electricity, he added. Herrod said VMware has become an example of effective virtualization itself by taking its 37,000 "machines that could be on at any time" and cutting the numbers down to 776 physical servers. The reduction is the equivalent of taking three football fields of computers and putting them all in one end zone, he said. Electricity usage shrank from 25 megawatts to 540 kilowatts, he added.

VMware has finalized and shipped its VMsafe and vCloud APIs for third parties, Herrod said, and both will generate a wide range of products from third parties using the APIs to gain access to the VMware virtual environment. A broad set of security products will protect servers running the ESX hypervisor from intruders, Trojans, viruses and other malware code. Virtual firewall appliances are being built as well as system monitors that watch for irregular events or suspicious activity on a server.

"RSA (the security division of storage giant EMC Corp.) has a great tool for watching data (on the virtual machine) and keeping it safe." It could detect a bad practice and sound an alarm: "Don't send those Social Security numbers outside this department," he said. In the future, he added, virtualized data centers will enjoy an ease of federation with external cloud service providers. A virtualized unit of the data center may be moved out into the cloud to reduce pressure on resources processing the remaining workloads, he said.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on server virtualization (registration required).

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