VMware’s data centre management
collaboration with Cisco may have made bigger headlines at VMworld 2007 this
week, but VMware’s customers will see more immediate benefit from the company’s
acquisition of a small Swiss software developer that had originally set-out to
be a content management company.
From this unlikely beginning Dunes
Technologies SA has grown to be one of the first companies, capable of
providing cradle-to-grave management of virtual machine populations numbering thousands
Today, according to Stefan Hochuli
Paychere, co-founder and chief technology officer of Lausanne-based Dunes, the
company only has around 50 customers, but: “they are very big customers, like
T-Mobile and Qualcomm, who have thousands of virtual machines. Qualcomm has
tens of thousands,” he says.
Such companies are at the leading edge of
virtual machine deployment but they are not likely to remain isolated examples
for very long. As virtual machine deployment accelerates – current growth is
around 43%, according to IDC – so the scale and scope of virtual machine (VM)
estates is also set to rise.
Typically, in fact, organisations that
start-out deploying half a dozen VMs as a toe in the water exercise, quickly
discover that VMs aren’t simply more resource and energy efficient – boosting
server utilisation and cutting power consumption at a stroke – they are also a
great deal simpler to deploy. Consequently, “virtual server sprawl is a new
reality” said Paychere, and new tools are needed to combat it.
Dunes’ has found itself in the right place
at the right time. In 2001, the company was focussed on solving content
management and business process automation issues for media broadcasters.
However, the streaming media revolution hadn’t yet taken off, and as Paychere
looked around for a new problem to solve he discovered VMware, and its already
rapidly proliferating world of virtual machines.
The two companies quickly discovered some
common philosophical ground. “One of the things about virtual machines,” says
Raghu Raghuram, VMware’s VP of product and solutions marketing, “is that they
are a little like business documents. You can create them, distribute them and
store then like document files, and when you’ve finished with them you can also
delete them,” he said.
Dunes’ contribution to VMware’s
virtualisation infrastructure will be to extend the philosophy and technology
of content management to the virtual machine world and, also introduce a much
needed element of life-cycle management and process automation.
“At the moment,” says Paychere, “most
organisations have maybe five or six virtual machines. You can manage this very
easily – you just have to remember which machines do what, and who they belong
to. But when you have thousands of VMs you absolutely can’t do that, you have
to have automation.”
With Dunes-VSO (virtual services
orchestrator), VMware customers will be able to adopt a document life-cycle
approach to the management of large populations of virtual machines. The
product obliges systems operators to capture key information about VMs as they
are created – such as their application and business ownership – and to then
allocate them appropriate privileges, in much the same way as documents can be
marshalled in a digital rights management (DRM) regime.
VMware’s acquisition of Dunes is not set to
be finalised until the fourth quarter, so Paychere was unable to comment on how
VSO will ultimately be licensed, although it seems likely that it will become a
premium extension to VMware’s Virtual
Centre management console for larger customers.
Prior to the acquisition, Dunes already had advanced plans to deliver a
shrink-wrapped version of its product featuring “all the best functionality
used by our larger customers”, but geared to the needs of SMEs with only a few
dozen VMs. That product remains in the pipeline, and is unlikely to appear now
before the dust settles on Dunes’ acquissition.