VMware sees software defined data centre as the future for IT as a service

Roy Illsley, Principal Analyst, Ovum IT

The recent VMware Forum 2013 in London provided a platform for VMware EMEA chief technologist, Joe Baguley, to reveal how VMware is addressing the challenges of transforming IT to an as-a-service paradigm. This transformation is based on three key pillars.

First, it is about making the entire data center more agile, and the software-defined data center (SDDC) is the vehicle that VMware sees as being a major disruptive technology to enable the delivery of IT in this way. Second, it is about open standards to support the hybrid cloud. Finally, it is about the way in which customers access these services is changing.

For VMware this signals a shift from a virtual desktop policy to a multi-device strategy that supports the concept of enablement, not control. Ovum believes that this shift does not represent a radical rebirth for VMware, but instead is the result of a maturing organisation that is evolving and recognising what the market needs. VMware has been transformed from the $1bn company that Diane Green ran as CEO to a $4.6bn company run by new CEO Pat Gelsinger.

Organisations are not run by IT but by people who hire and fire IT departments

The virtualisation revolution started in 1998 and has not really moved beyond the virtualisation of the compute resources in the data center. However, the SDDC concept extends this so that the different layers (compute, storage, security, and network) are all virtualised and separated as components.

Customers of IT not only demand the ability to obtain services faster than traditionally delivered approaches, but they also want to customise the services to their particular needs. The analogy used by Baguley was the coffee shop where customers come in and order from what seems like a bewildering array of drinks, from a chai crème frappuccino to a skinny latte with a double shot of espresso, for example.

These drinks are actually made by assembling standard components, but to the customer they offer choice and flexibility. SDDC with its separation of the technology layers begins this “late assembly” process where the components can be assembled quickly and easily to make what appears to be bespoke solutions for customers.

But like the coffee shop you can only offer a selection of services based on the sub-components, you cannot get a specific strength of a drink other than that which can be made from the sub-components, say, a bit stronger than one shot of espresso but not as strong as two shots. However, to move to a situation more like the coffee shop, IT departments must understand how to combine the different standard components into offerings that can be consumed rapidly by customers.

Ovum believes that automation is the key technology to being able to assemble the different parts of a customer’s request and delivering it when needed. If we go back to the coffee shop analogy, being able to make a custom drink for a customer must be performed as fast as delivering a standard white coffee, so processes and procedures are critical. This is where automation can deliver, because if IT departments do not, or cannot, perform this then the business will find a partner that can.

VMware sees the hybrid cloud as an inside-out evolution

According to Ovum’s research, the hybrid cloud looks set to become the dominant approach used by organizations as they deploy cloud computing. According to Ovum’s Tech Trends survey in 2010, 19% of respondents stated they plan to adopt hybrid cloud, but by 2012 this number had risen to 38%.

The research shows that planned public cloud adoption has risen from 33% to 47% and private cloud adoption increased from 29% to 46% over the same time period. The challenge now is how this hybrid cloud will work with the existing workloads that organizations have. This workload perspective represents the crux of the dilemma because most traditional applications are developed to scale up with the necessary resources managed and made available, while cloud applications are designed to scale out, and as such take responsibility for the resources themselves.

Traditional applications are run in private clouds because these applications need to be associated with the infrastructure, while cloud applications can run anywhere and are infrastructure-agnostic. VMware believes that most organizations will look to move to a hybrid cloud model by transitioning existing applications to an environment that enables them to scale out, and this means the move from on-premise to hybrid cloud will be driven from an inside-to-outside approach.

Baguley announced that VMware was working closely with OpenStack, a shift for VMware, which has been closely associated with proprietary technology. Ovum considers that recognizing that in order to get greater cloud adoption, standards are needed so workloads can be portable between different cloud technologies represents a different approach for VMware.

Recognising that we are in a multi-device environment and having a solution for it is a significant move by VMware

VMware with Horizon suite has seen it deliver a suite of solutions that deliver the capability needed to operate in a multi-device environment. Ovum considers that many vendors claim to operate a multi-device strategy, but in reality are missing significant elements.

With Horizon VMware cover the physical, virtual, and mobile device aspects, as well as managing the workspace. Ovum considers the workspace to be the most important because only by separating the application and data and allowing these to be combined to match the particular use case needed by the customer can a multi-device strategy be implemented and supported.

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