Enterprise IT responds cautiously to VMware vCloud Director

A new cloud management offering from VMware is meant to help users create virtual data centers with self-service provisioning features. But it will take time for enterprise IT to be ready for it.

SAN FRANCISCO -- VMware's new vCloud Service Director is generating plenty of buzz among enterprise IT pros, but the people and process transformation required to embrace such a product is much easier said than done.

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VCloud Service Director is a "manager of managers" of sorts that can be layered over multiple instances of VMware's virtualization management suite, vCenter, as well as a company's multiple data centers -- even external service providers' data centers . Admins can then use vCloud Director, underpinned by the new vShield Edge routing virtual firewall, to create virtual data centers. Details on the new cloud offering were announced at VMware Inc.'s annual conference, VMworld 2010.

Business units can then access these virtual data centers, along with resource catalogs, through a self-service portal. Depending on the amount of customization allowed by the administrator, application owners or end users can also create customized templates and share them as part of the resource catalog.

"The idea is to create a curtain in the middle, where from the standpoint of the user, everything behind the curtain is completely isolated," said Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's vice president of product marketing. "That complete abstraction between production and consumption," he added, "is a requirement of completely shared infrastructure."

VCloud Director is set for general availability on Sept. 1, and is licensed per virtual machine, with a 25 pack starting at $3,750.

Impressions of vCloud Director 
Industry observers are generally glad to see an actual VMware offering to go along with the company's message about private and hybrid clouds. As with any new product, however, the devil is in the details.

Some of the advanced features of vCloud Director that VMware has touted require users to purchase a partner's separate product. Users who want to configure complex authentication federation over multiple sites using Active Directory or Lightweight Directory Active Protocol, for example, would have to buy HyTrust's Cloud Control tool, which was also announced at VMworld. Additionally, vCloud Director doesn't integrate performance and capacity monitoring and management with the self-service provisioning portal at this point. And coordination between multiple databases used by the components of the vCloud environment -- including vSphere, vCenter and vOrchestrator -- present potential financial and logistical pitfalls.

It's an internal political thing ... that is the biggest hurdle to adopting [vCloud Service Director].
Rick Vanover,
IT infrastructure managera Midwestern financial services firm

Even enterprise users who are on board with the private cloud concept say that pieces are missing from version one of vCloud Director. It's a good first step, said John Lamb, assistant vice president of platform management at The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., which has also deployed a vBlock infrastructure stack from VMware, Cisco Systems and EMC. But Lamb said he'd like to see the self-service portal add support for applications as well as storage, server and networking resources. "Application developers ask for infrastructure, but business managers ask for applications," he said.

Meanwhile, before most users can get into the nitty-gritty of deploying, managing and troubleshooting private clouds, processes need to be in place to deal with the organizational sea change that such a product would bring about. Rick Vanover, an IT infrastructure manager at a large Midwestern financial services firm, said the vShield Edge component of vCloud Director is a specific concern. His company has separate teams that manage networking and servers; and vShield Edge is a piece of networking equipment that runs on virtualized server hardware. "It's an internal political thing," Vanover said. "Those are the biggest hurdles to adopting this stuff,"

Déjà vu all over again
Lamb takes a longer view but acknowledges the potential political issues concerning concepts such as IT self-service. "Back in the days of the mainframe, we had the ability and discipline to do this; with distributed systems, we lost that transparency. The current generation of IT pros grew up in the distributed systems environment, so they look at [self-service] as a brand-new thing."

Indeed, VMware is hardly the first to offer service catalogs and self-service provisioning, said Andi Mann, vice president of virtualization product marketing at CA Technologies, which has a related offering in Spectrum Automation Manager, as do vendors such as IBM with Tivoli Service Automation Manager, Quest with its recent acquisition of Surgient, and BMC Software.

VMware's advantage with vCloud Service Director is that "most [large] organizations already have VMware skills … and they can get to a higher level of maturity faster," with technologies like ESX resource pools, he said. Conversely, VMware's challenge "is the age-old story of heterogeneity," Mann said. "If the average number of virtualized servers is 30%, that means that 70% of workloads can't use vCloud Director."

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com.

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