A much wider issue than simply some new product and services announcements reared its head, unannounced and unspoken, at the recent launch of VMware’s vSphere 6.
This was being pitched as the industry’s first unified platform for hybrid clouds, and while there are several vendors that might fancy their chances in arguing that particular point, the unspoken issue was the emerging new role for one or more vendors to really exploit the potential being created in cloud infrastructure and services to become a pukka Service Provider rather than a `technology’ provider.
There was some clue to suggest that VMware CEO, Pat Gelsinger, is thinking along these lines, even if he is not ready to talk that talk openly.
In his introduction to vSphere 6’s formal launch, shown in Europe as a video from the US launch the day before, he talked about it being one cloud that can run any application on any device, and claimed that VMware was unique in being able to do this.
This is all part of the company’s serious push into providing Software Defined Datacentres (SDDCs) that would be instantly available, fluid in the ability to adapt to need, and secure in operation.
As part of this, the company is now straddling two camps: the proprietary world of VMware-centric infrastructure where it still has a huge user-base that requires both current support and a road map of future direction, and the open source world of OpenStack and Linux-based applications and services.
And it is this split which forms the foundation that VMware – and others – can build the next level of abstraction in the marketplace. It now is positioned to start offering users a `virtual IT’ service, managing whatever infrastructure and applications they choose to run, plus the ability to change everything and anything, anytime in the future.
This would be a level that gives users a roadmap which explicitly says that they no longer need to care which `camp’ – proprietary or open, cloud or on-premise - they are in now or might be in some time in the future.
Reality suggests that the near-term future – at the very least – will have all existing businesses operating in all camps. In effect they will all have their own individual interpretation of `cloud’, their own individual information management structure.
But while much of the industry and the analyst community – for their own reasons and notions of self-interest – try to maintain artificial divisions, this move to the next level of abstraction is unlikely to take place any time soon.
VMware falls into the trap, along with many other infrastructure technology and services vendors, of seeing themselves as selling technology to specific types of user – those geared to proprietary VMware and those working with OpenStack, Linux and open source applications.
And while the short answer is `yes they are’, the long answer is that they are now in a position to sell infrastructure decerebralisation – the removal of infrastructure as a decision process user businesses need to agonise over.
It is possible to suggest that for VMware and a few others – TIBCO comes to mind, for example – it is time to consider their prime competition as the Accentures and PWCs of this world, rather than each other.
The new Version 6 of vSphere is being pitched as a unified platform of virtualised compute, networking and storage for hybrid cloud environments, with new implementations of all three elements.
The company claims to have added more than 650 new features, such as more comprehensive capabilities in mixing and managing existing business critical and new cloud-native applications, as well as a new OpenStack distribution that can provide open APIs to developers looking to build applications and services across the open and proprietary VMware environments.
It has also introduced a Version 6 of Virtual SAN, plus vSphere Virtual Volumes that makes external storage arrays natively aware of virtual machines.
In addition, the company has launched a technology preview of vCloud Air hybrid network services. This is designed to provide a bridge between vCloud Air public cloud services and vSphere-based private clouds. It is based on a gateway appliance intended to offer a single, secure, network domain.
It also features a new service addition: vMotion. This now allows users to dynamically move VMs over long distances.
According to VMware CTO, Ben Fathi, this gives the company a hyper-cloud environment that can run all applications and use all the new container APIs that are coming through:
We can run apps from SAP, Oracle and others, through to scale out apps such as Hadoop, with virtualised Hadoop running 12% faster than a bare metal implementation. We can also run Terabyte-sized SAP HANA instances, which is an industry first. We have been running all our development environments on vSphere 6 for the last year at least. So we feel we have proved it is a heavy lifting type of environment.
VMware is, in my view, missing a trick in not taking both existing customers, and potential new ones, on to the next level of abstraction by `back-staging’ the technology as a front-line issue. The fact that it is positioned to decerebralise the technology issues of `how’ things are done and move them to `what businesses want to achieve’ can have the counter-productive consequence of highlighting the company playing catch-up on technology.