VMware begins a new phase in its evolution

By Roy Illsley, Principal Analyst, IT Software

VMware has been the force behind many of the server infrastructure virtualisation transformations that have taken place in the data centre over the last decade.

The infrastructure virtualization market is now reaching maturity, with about 50% of x86 data centres now virtualised, and VMware needed to extend its solutions to expand beyond server virtualization.

At VMWorld 2012 Europe, more than 8,000 delegates witnessed the shift in emphasis as VMware’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger, announced the company’s move to become a heterogeneous data centre and cloud management vendor.

The other key announcement, following on from VMWorld US where VMware released the tools needed to build the software-defined data center (SDDC), was the move to provide the management tools needed to operationalize the SDDC. VMware also signaled a change in approach to end-user computing, focusing on the management and governance of applications and data rather than the device or the technology.

VMware now supports multi-environment management

The VMware management capability was significantly enhanced when it acquired the Ionix solutions from its parent company EMC in 2010. This provided it with a core set of data centre management capabilities, as well as its own virtualisation management toolset.

These tools looked and felt separate, and while they addressed the core needs of the operational teams, they lacked cloud management and automation capabilities. To combat this VMware built its management tools into a suite that works at three levels: business management, operational management, and service management.

Most of this management suite was updated or new, which shows the speed of development VMware has undertaken.

Ovum particularly likes the automation tool, VMware vCloud Automation Center 5.1, which although primarily policy-based, has some excellent features and capabilities, particularly the potential to link the automation, operational, and business-management capabilities via chargeback to deliver a virtual currency approach to automatically managing and operationalizing management activities.

However, the biggest new announcement was the twin move to recognise and support a heterogeneous IT environment.

VMware had previously announced the capability to manage a VMware-based cloud environment, but it has now announced that it recognises the need to manage physical environments, other hypervisor technologies, and external cloud suppliers’ environments.

vFabric Application Director 5.0 provides the ability to provision applications across this mix of environments. The initial offering provides the ability to manage Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors and Amazon Web Services EC2 public cloud offering environments from an application perspective, while vCloud Automation and vCloud Operations provide the management capabilities in a heterogeneous environment.

Ovum expects that this move to support a heterogeneous environment by VMware will be replicated by other vendors, and in fact represents VMware catching up with some smaller management vendors that already offer multi-environment support, albeit for smaller organisations and with less sophisticated capabilities.

Ovum believes that the maturing of the server virtualisation market is a driver behind this move. Current levels of server virtualization are about 50% in all x86 data centres, and even higher (between 60% and 70%) among VMware’s customers.

While there is still a significant x86-based market to address, VMware is demonstrating its forward-thinking strategy and its recognition that the time is right to change as the market changes in order to ensure it remains a leader in the management and orchestration field.

Managing data, applications, and access demonstrates new thinking about end-user computing

VMware also announced a new end-to-end integrated approach to end-user computing, Horizon Suite, which is being beta tested and is expected to go on public release in Q1 2013.

Horizon builds on VMware’s existing VDI offerings, which include View, by adding significantly to the management of the data and applications.

VMware had already released (in Q2 2012) Horizon Application Manager that added the ability to act as a universal services broker applying policy-driven management and access control to the provision of virtual desktops. With Horizon Suite, VMware now has the ability to wrap the policies around the applications and provide a fully manageable environment for virtual, physical, and mobile endpoint computing, all available using a single order code or SKU.

In a demonstration of Horizon, it showed how it can prevent users from copying text from documents that they view on non-corporate devices or networks.

Again, much of this technology already exists in what is termed the “user virtualisation” space, and what VMware is doing is bringing together all the associated capabilities under a single management platform.

Ovum believes that this will appeal to many large and mid-sized organizations, and will help drive wider adoption of virtual desktops, BYOD, and mobile computing.

The software-defined data centre has moved from a concept to a project

The SDDC has long been a vision of VMware, but until now has only really focused on the compute resources in the data centre.

VMware’s acquisitions of a number of vendors in 2012 have provided greater capabilities in terms of storage virtualisation and software-defined networks (SDNs).

The main thrust of VMware’s presence in SDDC today revolves around its management software, VMware Cloud Management solutions, which can help IT act as the services broker. Ovum considers this aspect represents the first stage in a maturity model that will include significant alterations to the financing of IT as well as to business understanding of the value of IT.

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