VMWorld 2008: VMware touts 'the cloud' at user conference

At chief executive Paul Maritz's first VMworld conference, the company previewed a broad set of technology designed to help enterprises become cloud computing providers to their employees.


VMware chief technology officer Stephen Herrod admitted that the cloud "might be the most abused phrase since virtualisation," but the goal of providing highly scalable and elastic computing resources that can expand and shrink as needed and be accessed from anywhere is real.

A lot of VMware customers want to be just like Google, according to Maritz. "They think Google has this giant computer they can flexibly deploy applications on top of, and that's what they aspire to achieve," Maritz said. The idea is to operate an "internal cloud," and act as a "hosting provider to internal customers," he said.

This will require more flexible and efficient methods of delivering computing resources, where virtual machines can be moved around at will, independent of the hardware they run on, VMware said.

"What's interesting is that while many of the clouds you hear about are associated with high-performance computing or web 2.0, what I heard here showed that they're thinking more about an enterprise cloud, a cloud that will support enterprise applications with some guarantees about service-level agreements," said IDC analyst Jean Bozman.

The largest companies might operate their own internal clouds, while others will contract with service providers that offer computing resources over the web with the help of VMware technology.

"It's going to be a departure from a lot of the cloud stuff we've seen already," Bozman said. "It's going to have more of the characteristics of software-as-a-service, where you expect to get something like a packaged software functionality. It's not just for developers who are writing web applications, it's not for high-performance computing where you're doing a lot of custom stuff. The intention is to provide for you what you would have gotten from ... your own data centre."

None of VMware's technology announced at VMworld will be available until sometime next year. Key announcements include the Virtual Datacentre Operating System (VDC-OS), which aggregates virtualised servers, storage and network resources into one big computing pool that serves up computing resources to applications, providing a better level of availability and scalability, the company says.

For example, the VDC-OS will be able to manage as many as 4,096 processor cores in a single pool of resources, Herrod said.

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