• 08/23/2013
    11:57 PM
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VMware Launches Software-Defined Data Center Tools

VMware adds tools to virtualize networking and storage resources this week at VMworld as customers debate its approach to hybrid clouds.
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The two additions to the product line still leave VMware well short of the software-defined data center. But they automate crucial steps in virtual machine creation and operation. When combined with other additions, such as the recently announced vCenter Log Insight, which gathers operational stats out of server log files for analysis, the building blocks of automated operations are starting to fall into place.

In addition, VMware has doubled the capacity of its latest version of vSphere to manage the environment. VSphere 5.5 will be introduced Monday with an ability to manage 320 instead of 160 CPU cores. In vSphere parlance, a modern Xeon physical core is seen as two logical CPUs because Xeon is now multi-threaded. In the past, 160 physical cores were also 160 logical cores, in vSphere's view. Now the number of logical units has doubled. So a server CPU with four cores represents eight CPUs for vSphere to work with.

Those logical CPUs can and likely will be further divided up. A host server with four cores and eight logical CPUs could be running 16 or 32 virtual machines, each assigned its own virtual CPU or a fraction of a logical CPU. So the number of virtual CPUs that vSphere 5.5 can manage has been double from 2,048 to 4,096.

The amount of RAM that it can manage has increased from two TBs to four TBs.

VSphere 5.5 has been enhanced in several other ways:

-- It now supports Intel's Atom Processor C2000 used in mobile devices as well as the x86 instruction set Xeon.

-- With Big Data Extensions, vSphere 5.5 can run a virtualized cluster that hosts Hadoop big data handling, then reverts to more typical virtualized workloads when Hadoop is no longer needed. The extensions are the result of VMware's sponsored open source project, Serengeti, launched last October, to put Hadoop on a virtualized cluster but allow the cluster to run a mix of tasks.

-- Another addition is vSphere App HA or high availability; in the past, VMware system management could detect when a major component of the infrastructure was no longer running but it couldn't specifically spot the application. Now it can tell if the virtual machine must recover from application or operating system failure.

-- An SSD feature has been added to vSphere 5.5, Flash Read Cache, to virtualize any Flash storage found on the server cluster.

The new version of vSphere is part of VMware's cloud software, the vCloud Suite 5.5. In addition, two other products are now part of the suite, vCloud Automation Center, which provisions compute, networking and storage as cloud services; and vCenter Operations Management, which combines virtual machine configuration management, performance management and capacity management. Both used to be stand-alone products.

The vCloud Suite comes in three versions, and only parts of vCloud Automation and vCenter Operations are included in the Standard edition; more parts are included in the Advanced edition and all parts are included in the Enterprise edition.

Hybrid cloud computing is a concern of the VMware customer base that VMware will again address at this year's VMworld. A hybrid operation takes some workloads in the on-premises data center and moves them out into a public cloud as an extension of the enterprise compute operation. VMware is saying that doing so to public cloud services that it will establish will allow customers to manage them through the familiar vCenter management console.

VMware is thus trying to make vCloud, its cloud-ified version of vSphere, useful as the basis for in-house, private cloud operations. That would include end user self-provisioning, automated elasticity where the resource can expand or contract with the needs of the workload, and automated chargeback based on hourly use.

If VMware can get its customers to buy into its view of the software-defined data center, it will have a better springboard from which to carry them and its product line into the public phase of hybrid operations.

Much more on that topic is expected during this year's VMworld. Wall Street's assessment, as various analysts downgraded VMware stock, is that VMware is losing out to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft when it comes to cloud.

But some analysts thought otherwise as VMware reported a better than expected second quarter in late July. Nomura, which recently downgraded Microsoft, upgraded VMware at the end of the month, as did Raymond James. Jefferies & Co. analyst Ross MacMillan noted the vCloud Suite's contribution to the second quarter and upgraded his VMware recommendation to Buy, on Aug. 23, as noted in Barron's Tech Trader column. He said he thinks it will post 16% license revenue growth in 2014, compared to the consensus of 11%. VMware's stock rose 2.7% Friday to $87.80.

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