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Cloud management top of mind among VMware faithful

A VMware exec explains how vSphere enables cloud management and federation between private and public clouds in an effort to convince wary IT shops to move the cloud.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As everyone knows by now, cloud computing is all the rage. But how to manage all those applications and services?

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The notion of delivering IT as a service is nothing new. But with IT pros' skepticism about "cloud" buzz, a VMware exec said that the company is here to help.

"For the first time, we are confident we can with our partners deliver products to make [cloud computing] something real," Bogomil Balkansky, the vice president of products at VMware Inc., told Virtualization Forum 2009 attendees on Thursday. "That will be our focus for the next two to three years."

Today, a lot of the cloud talk is about specific offerings, such as Amazon's EC2, and people aren't sure how to move their existing IT to these external services or don't have the time to do so, Balkansky said. "It typically requires re-writing applications, which most of our customers have no appetite for doing."

That is the case for Karl Barnes, a senior network engineer at the city of Alexandria, Va. He said migrating applications to external cloud environments requires application re-writes, a time-consuming and costly process that isn't worth the trouble, especially for applications that are used by only a handful of people.

Security issues stymie government use of public clouds 
Michael Stoos, the CTO of the Federal Drug Administration's Office of Information Management, said that a lack of standards in areas such as security prevents government agencies from using external clouds. "We don't want to go to an environment that isn't entirely defined yet."

We don't want to go to an environment that isn't entirely defined yet.
Michael Stoos,
CTOOffice of Information Management, FDA

With that, VMware hopes to turn the external cloud model on its head and bring clouds into data centers using vSphere to build private clouds first, which Balkansky said doesn't require any re-writing of applications. "With virtualization, you don't need to re-write an app; you just enclose it in a VM [virtual machine], and no matter how old or cranky the application is, it runs on this new platform," he said.

Creating an internal cloud requires more than just a cloud operating system, though, so VMware is building components for vSphere to support clouds including a suite of cloud management features due out in the next nine months and cloud federation technologies, due out within the next year, Balkansky said.

VMware says its new vCenter management suite will be able to support up to 300 ESX hosts and 3,000 virtual machines for large cloud environments and will offer a simple, centralized view of applications. In addition, delivery of private clouds through vSphere will be entirely service-level agreement driven, Balkansky said. "It will be a new language. … People will pay for the levels of availability, service and performance they need," Balkansky said.

"Our challenge is to hide the complexity of the data center and make setting up a new IT services as easy as it is for us to order new cell phone service…where you are able to go to a website, see the plans … and depending on your budget and your needs, you swipe you credit card and you are up and running in a matter of minutes," he said.

VMware's federation tool will let IT administrators move VMs based on the Open Vitualization Format, or OVF, standard from private clouds off premises to external clouds or other private clouds in a company's sister data centers, Balkansky said.

At first, users will be able to move VMs only via cold migration, but VMware is working on ways to ship VMs long distances without shutting them down. This capability won't hit the market for at least two years, though, Balkansky said.

Lining up third-party support
In the meantime, VMware is working with more than 500 vendors to ensure that their cloud applications can federate with vSphere, Balkansky said.

Chris Wolf, a virtualization expert and analyst at Burton Group, said users should use their virtualization infrastructure to develop an internal cloud computing environment for benefits such as mobility. Cloud computing detaches assets from physical restraints and gives IT the flexibility to move resources around as needed.

"You don't want to go to clouds kicking and screaming; you want to start planning for clouds internally now, because it is going to happen anyway," Wolf said.

The FDA's Stoos said, that while the agency is hesitant to move to external clouds, it is developing a private cloud computing strategy of its own. "We consider virtualization part of our cloud strategy. …We want to have a cloud in our four data centers that can work together, and then we can determine … whether to add excess capacity with external clouds."

Wolf cautioned attendees to expect snags in areas like support and business processes. "In many cases, business process re-alignment is the most time-consuming part of the internal cloud development process," he said. "The business processes to create cloud environments have to exist, and sometimes this is more complex than deploying the actual technologies."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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