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VMware keeps the ball rolling with vSphere

Tim Stammers | April 22, 2009
VMware is calling vSphere a cloud OS, but customers should be aware that implicit promises to enable portability among public clouds will take years to deliver.

VMware has unveiled the latest version of its server virtualisation and management software, which will ship before June under a new name, vSphere. The broad-ranging update will bolster the companys existing technical lead over its biggest rivals, Microsoft and Citrix. VMware is calling vSphere a cloud OS, but customers should be aware that implicit promises to enable portability among public clouds will take years to deliver.

vSphere covers a lot of ground

vSphere is slated to ship by the end of June, and comprise new products as well as updates to existing ones, which collectively cover a very wide front.

A new version of VMwares ESX hypervisor will double the number of virtual processors and memory that can be presented to a virtual server, so improving the latters performance. VMware claims that ESX-based virtual servers were already able to meet the performance needs of more than 95% of applications, but Citrix has been claiming that performance is one of its sharpest edges over VMware.

The rest of the updates are related to the management of virtual servers and their integration with other elements of IT, such as storage and networking. There are a great many new features in vSphere. Just some of the highlights are automated virtual server failover, reduced consumption of the disk space needed to store server images and application data, and more flexible networking via third-party management of VMware virtual switches.

The need is real

Most of the updates in vSphere were first promised by VMware last year, and all will be welcomed by customers. VMware like its rivals is building the management tools that are needed to handle virtual servers, but the process will take some time to complete. The company is already promising that before the end of the year it will ship important products in the areas of performance management and chargeback, which were not ready in time for the vSphere launch.

The problem is not that VMware or third-party tools vendors have been slacking; it is that the virtual world requires many new tools. Virtual servers are portable, and can move from one physical host to another, or shut down when not needed. This flexibility can only be fully exploited with new tools, and it can also undermine existing management tools that were designed to work only with physical servers. Moreover, existing tools cannot monitor the resources used by each of the multiple virtual servers that are sharing one physical host.

vSphere is some way from a cloud OS for the big sky

Virtualisation is encouraging the creation of a set of tools that will work with each other when they manage servers, networks and storage. Last year VMware was calling this coming toolset a data centre OS. Since then the company has decided that cloud OS is a better label, presumably for the obvious marketing reasons.

 

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