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How VMware handles changing virtual data center dynamics

VMware CTO Steve Herrod offers his two cents on changing data center dynamics as vendors aim to extend virtualization principles beyond servers.

Over the past decade, server virtualization made software a powerful force in the data center, giving IT departments more flexibility and bringing about more efficient operations. It turns out that virtualization was the easy part. Applying its principles to other areas of data center dynamics is still a work in progress.

The natural extensions of the server virtualization trend—cloud computing, software-defined networking, changes in business models—have not had such a clear path to success. Cloud security concerns still persist. Software-defined networking has yet to realize its potential. And VMware’s move to vRAM licensing and pricing, a more cloud-like model, proved so unpopular that the company abandoned it after only a year. Stephen Herrod, VMware’s chief technology officer, discussed these changing data center dynamics and more in this One on One interview.

Modern Infrastructure: With all of the talk about software-defined data centers, storage and networking, why should IT professionals trust software vendors like VMware with their hardware?

Stephen Herrod: It actually is a little bit of a nuanced message. The software-defined data center is about delivering all the services via software. The main goal for this whole thing is to automate those things that weren’t previously automatable.

A lot of our hardware partners are making their hardware offerings multi-tenant and more easily automatable so that we can also plumb them into the system. It is not strictly that everything in the world runs in software.

As the line between software and hardware blurs, how will this change IT department roles and data center dynamics?

We really see this notion of cloud operations. We’ve been calling it CloudOps as sort of the corollary to DevOps. You need to understand how the hardware is plumbed through. We’ve already seen this with virtualization in general: You can’t have an individual storage silo and a network silo and a server silo.

Who do you see handling end-user computing initiatives?

There used to be the Windows team or the desktop team, but it tends to be a different team that takes on mobile. The notion of general IT services is also a different team as well. It tends to be pretty high in the organization, especially if you’re trying to show an overarching suite.

I think there are roles that don’t yet exist that will be in charge of all end-user access, especially as more things are outside the firewall and are not on inventory owned by the company.

On the public cloud side, does VMware feel like Amazon is running away with that space, and is the company satisfied with the uptake of its vCloud-branded services?

It’s growing at one of the fastest clips of any parts of our business. [VMware Service Provider Partners] are a bit more focused on the enterprise side of things versus the new-age developer side of things.

How many vCloud-branded partners are there worldwide?

There’s the vCloud data center service partners, and that is the highest tier, that has a lot of different commitments that they make when they join. That means they’re selling the entire suite, and they go through some certifications of the facilities and how they train and tech. And I think we’re up to 10 on that front.

But then we go down to something we call vSphere- and vCloud-powered partners, which means they’re using it as a primary component of their offering, and that gets well over 3,000 partners. At last check we were at 29 different countries as well.

I liken it to kind of a cloud franchise model, in the sense that there are going to be local tastes and local requirements on data that we think a local partner can see better than if we were to try to have some global-scale cloud. Data rules—they’re different in every state, not to mention every country.

Last year, regarding the vRAM licensing model, you said, “We needed to really put our money where our mouth is and recognize the world is going toward pools of computing resources and clouds.” Now that VMware has reverted to the previous licensing model, is it a problem that its future vision does not match up with its business model?

We had a good theory on why [vRAM licensing] would work, but the customers just didn’t like it right now. In actuality, the amount of money that customers pay really wasn’t different in either model. I think it was just too complex for what people were ready for.

With all the tools out there for managing, monitoring and backing up virtual environments, what can IT departments do to simplify their virtualization and cloud management?

There is a diversity of tools from so many partners now. They’re all creating a bunch of different and interesting ideas along the way. It means that people need to understand and pick and choose wisely.

Suites are everywhere for VMware now, and our goal is to really not have customers know that there are a lot of different functionalities. We did two big launches: the vCloud Suite 5.1, which really pulled together 12 different products…and likewise on the end-user, consumerization side, an alpha of the Horizon Suite that pulls together six different efforts.

About the author:
Colin Steele is an executive editor in the Data Center and Virtualization media group. Write to him at

This article originally appeared in the December/January issue of Modern Infrastructure.

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