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VMware in quest to marry internal, external clouds

Dreams of virtual data center

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VMworld VMware plans to erase the boundaries between internal and external clouds, and it's working with over 1000 external-cloud service providers - including AT&T, SAVVIS, Terremark and Verizon Business - to pull it off.

According to VMware president and CEO Paul Maritz, speaking during the opening keynote address Tuesday morning at the VMworld conference in San Francisco, "The next stage of the journey that we're on is basically bridging to the external cloud."

The internal cloud, Maritz feels, is already handled well by the VMware's vSphere, which the company describes as a "cloud operating system" and which Maritz described as being based on "cloud mojo."

But once an enterprise establishes an internal cloud, Maritz asked, "How do we open up more choice for customers so that they can, at their discretion, decide whether they want to provision resources internally, or rent them on one of these external clouds?"

The key to answering that question, from Maritz's point of view, is the "virtual data center."

"What we're trying to do," he said, "is to work with the service-provider community so that as you build up your internal cloud, there will be a very rich ecosystem willing to work with you. And one of the key steps that we are taking to enable that is introducing over the coming months a new top-level management concept, that of the virtual data center. So we will be extending our management tools to allow you to think about your computing requirements as a collection of virtual data centers."

A virtual data center, as Maritz explained it, is "an organizational and management construct." VMware's vCloud Initiative aims to make the physical location of the resources supporting a virtual data center transparent from a management point of view.

"You can break your space up into a series of virtual data centers and address different business units, different functions - whichever way you want to slice it," he said. "And then, we will work with the service-provider community to make sure that there are external clouds that can basically take those virtual data centers, so down the road you will be able to pick up a virtual data center and slide it into an external cloud."

That's all well and good, but transparent management is also key, according to Maritz. "You want to make sure that the management looks the same, so that when you now have some of your virtual data centers inside and some of them outside, you still have a single pane of glass to manage them with."

Without identical management, he said, "If we make it so that when you move things to an external cloud and all of a sudden the management looks radically different, we haven't achieved much. We can't force you to live in a schizophrenic world."

With transparent management of virtual data centers, whether they're on an internal or external cloud, "It doesn't matter where your physical resources reside, the interface that you see - the user interface that you see - should be the same, and you can continue to do things the same," he said.

Maritz also emphasized the two-way nature of virtual data center management: "This is important for not only getting things into the cloud, but actually for getting things out of the cloud."

Confusing the Eagles with a Roach Motel, he continued, "If you think about it, if we're not careful the cloud could become the ultimate California motel - where you can check your applications into that cloud, but you can't check them back out again. So when you think about utilizing a cloud, it's as important to think, 'How am I one day going to get that application out of that cloud?' as it is to think 'How am I going to get it into that cloud?'

In its vCloud Initiative, VMware is working with external-cloud service providers to ensure that checking out is as simple as checking in.

Every new initiative needs its own tagline and logo, and Maritz provided them. A new VMware Virtualized logo can be used by service providers who, in Maritz's words, "want to signal to you their compatibility and readiness to take your loads."

The logo will identify service providers "who are willing to accept and ready to accept enterprise loads - serious computing loads - that are highly compatible with what you have inside your environment so that you can not only move [applications] out, but one day move them back if you need to."

VMware's vCloud Initiative partners, it was announced on Tuesday, include AT&T, SAVVIS, Terremark and Verizon Business, among others.

Maritz also announced two related initiatives, vCloud Express and the vCloud API Specification. The former is an on-demand, pay-as-you-go compute-access service that Maritz described as "fast and cheap - or fast and cost-effective, I should say." The latter is, as its name implies, an API set that the company has submitted to the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) that's intended, according to a canned statement, "to enable consistent mobility, provisioning, management, and service assurance of applications running in internal and external clouds."

VMware turns 11 this year, and the vCloud Initiative, vCloud Express, and vCloud API Specification each are aimed at increasing its growth from a company that COO Todd Nielsen described during his keynote opener as a an outfit that simply made "cute little hypervisors". ®

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