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.

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Secondly, VMware announced vCloud, an initiative that partners VMware with more than 100 service providers - such as Savvis, Verizon, AT&T, Rackspace and British Telecom - that are using VMware's technology to offer Internet-based computing clouds. VCloud "will connect internal data centres and external service provider offerings together seamlessly, enabling enterprises to adopt cloud-based services," VMware says.

The Virtual Datacentre Operating System concept is "intriguing," IT analyst Laura DiDio says. But to be successful, VMware must go out of its way to train customers, who often are dealing with tight budgets and using products 18 to 24 months older than the most cutting-edge technology.

Virtualising a few servers and deploying basic disaster recovery tools is relatively simple compared with the kind of overall data centre management schemes VMware is now talking about.

"They have to match theory with actual usage," Didio says. "You know, it's got to be vetted. ... A lot of customers are leaving the comfort zone. These things are increasing in size, scope and complexity. A lot of these organizations do not have the time nor the funds to send their IT people out for training."

Even customers who are virtualising large portions of their data centres may not want to deploy the VDC-OS immediately.

"We'll test it out, we'll work with it in our labs and we'll see how it works. We're not rushing into that," says Aaron Andrews, director of distributed systems at First American Corporation in California. Andrews says his company takes an approach that assumes pretty much any workload can be deployed on a virtual server, but there's still work to be done in educating business users.

"We have business units that have adopted it, and we have business units that don't know what virtualisation is," he says.

Kris Jmaeff, a senior data centre analyst at the Interior Health Authority in British Columbia, says forthcoming VMware technology like the VDC-OS, and increasing willingness by software application vendors to support workloads running on virtual machines, will help the organization move closer to a fully virtualised environment. Currently, about half the authority's physical servers are virtualised. "By the next generation [of VMware's technology releases] we'll be able to virtualise almost everything," he says.

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