VMware and the virtual data centre operating system

X86 virtualisation pioneer VMware can hardly be faulted for a lack of ambition. While all around it, technology vendors are palpably retreating into ‘keep-things-ticking-over’ mode to weather the recession, VMware has launched a bid to become the enterprise software platform vendor of the future.

That bid revolves around vSphere. Previously referred to by the company as its ‘virtual data centre operating system’, the product set, which is due for release later this year, has also been variously been described as a ‘software mainframe’ or a ‘cloud operating system’.

In fact, it is a toolset made up of VMware’s existing virtualisation and management kit with some additional functionality that can make repurposing all of an organisation’s IT resources as a single continuous, scalable computing fabric a more palatable prospect.

One tool, vCentre Server Heartbeat, for example, will allow companies to set up a constantly updating backup of the management console. vShield Zones will allow virtualised environment managers to cordon off conceptual ‘zones’ in which to execute applications, for security and availability purposes.

Once everything in the IT environment is based on a single virtual layer, that layer logically becomes the universal site for systems management, VMware CEO Paul Maritz argues.

“One of the interesting things about building a ‘software mainframe’ is that we get to inspect every event [in the IT infrastructure],” he said at the company’s recent European conference. “Virtualisation becomes the ‘place’ where you do security and compliance, and you know it will apply everywhere. This new substrate becomes the place where you can insert policy.”

Simon Crosby, CTO for virtualisation and management at Citrix, recognises the validity of the concept, if not VMware’s execution. “The concept of a virtual data centre operating system strikes a chord with customers because of the complexity they are having to manage. But vSphere creates a single point of failure in the data centre.”

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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