VMware wants to play 'Server Tetris' in your data centre

Line up the workloads just right and the costs disappear

Steve Herrod, VMware CTO

VMware chief technology officer Steve Herrod wants to play Tetris with your data centre, in the hope that if he can get your workloads lined up just right some of your costs will disappear.

Herrod explained his new game at a press lunch in Sydney today, where he outlined some of VMware's future plans.

While he never strayed far from VMware's current 'software-defined data centre' mantra, Herrod explained how VMware's vision for the concept now imagines data centres that can understand the resources required to cope with current demand and self-organise to use the most optimal collectio of available kit.

Doing so, he explained, will involve twisting and turning to fit things into just the right-shaped spaces, akin to playing 'Server Tetris'.

Herrod even imagined taking the game up a level to fit workloads into spaces where power is cheapest, in a 'follow the moon' arrangement that would see workloads shunted around between different data centres in pursuit of a cheaper operating environment.

Doing so won't be easy, Herrod said, fingering the complexity required to configure networks to cope with falling, odd-shaped, blocks of requirement for infrastructure. Herrod said his own assessment of infrastructure maturity and flexibility in the data centre saw him mark networks with a D-minus for suitability for software-defined data centre. Other data centre components did far better.

VMware's Nicira acquisition is key to Herrod's ambition of delivering Server Tetris, as virtualising networks will, he hopes, reduce their complexity. But before the gamification of the data centre comes about VMware's goal is rather simpler: to erase the dead time that comes between the creation of a virtual machine and its connection to useful resources.

“We call it the 'next five days' problem,” Herrod said. “All the other parts of the data centre slow you down from putting that server to work.” One way VMware wants to reclaim that five days is by pointing out to business that it silly to operate specialist teams for the network, storage and other data centre disciplines, as that is likely to result in delays as staff inevitably prioritise their own work. Tools to make it easier to operate a single team are doubtless in the wings.

Herrod's talk made it clear that Server Tetris and follow the moon computing are on VMware's far horizons. A challenge to specialists in data centres, however, seemed like something he was keen to make a reality sooner rather than later. ®

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