Posted by Réza Malekzadeh
Sr. Director, Product Marketing & Alliances
It is now just over a month since the very first VMworld Europe and now that the dust has settled it’s a good time for us to share some of our thoughts on the show. There were a few key announcements at the event around new technologies we’ve been working on, all of which demonstrate just how far virtualization has come in terms of being accepted as a mainstream approach to computing.
It was especially exciting to see Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, HP and IBM all standing up to announce that they will be shipping our embedded hypervisor – ESXi 3.5 – as an option with their servers. One of our primary objectives when we announced ESXi was to extend our vision of making virtualization ubiquitous and open up the technology to as many organizations as possible. Consider this – Dell didn’t just announce they would make ESXi available with a few of its PowerEdge servers; they announced that they will be making this an option across it’s entire PowerEdge server line. So, once launched, anyone who buys a VMware virtualization-certified Dell PowerEdge server will be able to deploy virtualization easily.
The support of these OEM partners goes beyond representing a huge opportunity for VMware; it also validates the vision for x86 virtualization we had many years ago and the work we have done over the years in effectively creating this market.
There was further endorsement from numerous security vendors around our announcement of VMsafe which was a very significant move for us. For some time now people have been questioning how secure virtual machines are in comparison to their physical counterparts. The argument went (according to some) that if you can successfully attack a hypervisor with a piece of malware then the risks are greater, since that hypervisor has numerous systems running on it.
What we knew was that virtualization can be a fundamentally more secure way of running applications and that it opens up some new approaches to security which simply are not possible in the physical realm. In developing VMsafe we wanted to create an easy way for third party technology vendors – trusted by thousands of customers across the globe – to hook in to our technology and provide extra value for VMware customers.
VMsafe allows third-party security products to gain the same visibility as the hypervisor into the operation of a virtual machine. This allows VMsafe enabled security solutions to identify and eliminate malware that is undetectable on physical machines. This extra layer of protection is achieved through visibility into the virtual hardware resources of memory, CPU, disk and I/O systems within the VM which means every system execution can be monitored. Some journalists have asked whether by ‘opening up’ our product we are making it inherently easier to attack and more susceptible to malware.
To be very clear, VMware is not opening up its core hypervisor to third-party developers and therefore, potentially, to attack. Instead, what VMware has announced is a secure API; all code running from third parties will be running within a virtual machine, which by its very nature is isolated or ‘sandboxed’. VMsafe works on a trust model – so customers will have to select which virtual machines they want VMsafe-enabled security applications to gain visibility into. The key here is that VMsafe-enabled virtual machines will have visibility into VMs and not control over them.
Just as VMware has helped trigger a new wave of innovation in management and storage, we also feel that VMsafe will set off a new round of innovation from security vendors who can harness the power of virtualization to build an entirely new breed of security products.
There have also been significant developments on our automation and management product lines. At VMworld Europe we gave a preview of what some of our automation and lifecycle management tools, such as Lifecycle Manager will deliver. A month on and we have just announced the general availability of VMware Lifecycle Manager – a product which we feel will help organizations to implement a consistent and automated process for managing the entire virtual machine lifecycle.
We’ve always believed in innovation, but this has very much been driven by what our customers need and has been delivered in line with the pace at which their deployments and skill sets have grown. VMware Lifecycle Manager is a tool which our larger customers will find makes a real difference to how they can manage their environments. The front end of Lifecycle Manager is completely customizable so customers will be able to build a web-based portal which allows anyone with access to commission, check-out and provision virtual machines. All the policies, permissions and processes associated with virtual machines can be automated and set to run in the background. What you have is a very straightforward, controlled and repeatable way of managing your virtual machine lifecycle.
One of the options we are most excited about in this product is the option to associate chargeback metrics with each virtual machine. This will mean that different business units and / or departments can be charged for the IT resources they use. In the physical realm a concrete cost could be associated with each physical machine – you bought a server, it was yours to run. However, virtual machines have to be treated differently and we have developed this tool to allow costs to be applied to virtual resources. In actual fact, chargeback in a virtual environment is far more granular than it is in physical realms. The cost of buying and building a server doesn’t really reflect how much a department uses resources such as storage, networking bandwidth, power etc. With virtual infrastructure, its far easier to get this more detailed breakdown of what resources a machine has used.
We’ve been making great strides in enhancing our Virtual Desktop Infrastructure offering by developing our existing technology and also through the acquisition of companies like Propero. At VMworld we previewed a couple of technologies that are incredibly exciting.
The first of these technologies is Offline Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Users can check out personalized desktops to a notebook, use them in offline mode and then check back in to the desktop running in online mode. This really takes VDI beyond the datacenter and means users can have a single image to use whatever machine they are using. It also means VDI can be as flexible as our customers require.
One of the issues with VDI that our customers had brought to our attention was that a large VDI deployment would require a lot of storage to support it; if you are supporting five hundred instances of Windows XP that is a large amount of bulky operating systems to have sat on your shared storage. This is why we have developed our scalable virtual image technology in a tech preview. This allows desktop images to be published to hundreds or even thousands of virtual machines without the need for each image to be individually stored; instead we can clone the virtual machine image. This can reduce storage requirements by up to 90% which we believe will really help the uptake of VDI in general. We take the desktop virtualization market very seriously – when you think about how many PCs are out there we think customers will always be looking at better ways of managing enterprise desktops, and in VDI we think we have a great solution.
So between these four areas where we have made announcements – OEMs, Security, Automation, Virtual Desktops – we think we have really demonstrated our development efforts. Our OEM deals demonstrate how we are making virtualization more accessible and easier to deploy; VMsafe shows that we take security incredibly seriously; our Automation products reflect our desire to make virtual infrastructure easier to manage; the VDI tech previews show that VMware is determined to make virtual desktops easier to deploy, manage and use.