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VMware's Maritz touts vSphere as 'software mainframe'

At VMworld Europe, VMware's CEO announced that IT shops and service providers will be able to build a software-based mainframe with the company's vSphere platform.

CANNES – It's official: The next release of VMware's Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS) will be known as vSphere, said VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz during his VMworld Europe keynote.

Maritz described vSphere as a software "substrate" in the service of building a "software mainframe," or a "single giant computer." The software mainframe analogy has proved especially useful in describing vSphere to people age 45 and over, he said.

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"I tell them we are building a software mainframe, and they get tears in their eyes and say, 'Oh, yes. Distributed computing was just this crazy juvenile disease that we had.' "

In addition to being a "means of aggregation" of compute, storage and network resources, vSphere also becomes "an insertion point of management and control," Maritz said. To that end, vSphere will feature "downward facing" application programming interfaces (APIs) into underlying compute, storage and network resources, as well as "upward facing" interfaces to provide applications with additional security, availability and scalability.

Management of that environment will occur through an expanded vCenter suite (formerly known as VirtualCenter), which over the course of the year will provide end users with a new self-service portal, a service catalog of available virtual machine templates and expanded chargeback capabilities, Maritz said.

And because vSphere is a software -- not a hardware -- mainframe, "it will be even more flexible in terms of its fault tolerance," Maritz said, referring to the upcoming VMware Fault Tolerance feature.

The new vCloud vision
Maritz described how vSphere was being used today to build out VMware's vision of cloud computing -- aka vCloud. In Maritz's mind, internal clouds and external clouds will merge into clouds that are both "federated" and "private." Further, VMware wants the decision about whether to run a workload on an internal or external cloud to be "operational," not "architectural," he said.

The software mainframe analogy has proved especially useful in describing vSphere to older technologists.

In extending vSphere for the cloud, Maritz said VMware is adding new multitenancy features, opening up the management layer to third-party offerings, enabling "long-distance VMotion," and working to support "hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions, of virtual machines" running in a single cloud.

Maritz invited several guests onstage who are building cloud services on top of VMware vCloud APIs. Kurt Glazemakers, the chief technology officer at hosting provider Terremark, showed off a new hosting offering based on VMware that users can provision and manage entirely through a Web portal. Joe Arnold, the director of engineering at EngineYard, demonstrated Ruby on Rails running as a service on the Terremark cloud, and finally, Zvi Guterman, the CEO at IT Structures, outlined how, in the future, customers will use its framework to deploy demos and proof of concepts on a cloud rather than in IT Structure's own data center.

Maritz also noted cloud efforts from vCloud partners such as Savvis, SunGard, which will offer data recovery as a cloud service, and Logica, which will offer test lab automation as a cloud service using VMware Lab Manager and Stage Manager. VMware's efforts with its vCloud partners stand in stark contrast other prominent cloud players like Amazon, with its Elastic Compute Cloud (or EC2) and Google App Engine, Maritz said. "What we fear is the emergence of a couple of highly proprietary überclouds," he said.

"There's an old joke about a California hotel that you can check in to but that you can't check out of," Maritz said. "We don't think that should happen." Check out the rest of our VMworld Europe news coverage.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Alex Barrett, News Director. And check out our Server Virtualization blog.

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