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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Top Resources to Learn about vCloud Director

By David Davis

At VMworld 2010 in San Francisco, VMware's CEO Paul Maritz announced the cornerstone of their private cloud platform – vCloud Director. Formerly known as "Project Redwood", vCloud Director sits above your, potentially, existing virtual infrastructure and allows you to pool those virtual infrastructure resources to allow your IT customers to consume IT in a whole new way. With vCloud Director, this is done with end user portals, catalogs, and security policies that should make your business more agile and reduce costs. vCD is also the a platform that will allow you, one day, to transition to the public cloud or create a hybrid cloud. Without seeing these features for yourself and testing them to visualize the benefits in your own company, this may sound like hype and that's why we all need to spend more time researching, learning, and evaluating vCloud Director for ourselves.


If you are still at the point of trying to figure out what vCloud Director is, make sure that you read more about it on the vCloud Director product page. On the other hand, if you have a base idea about what vCloud Director is and are looking for more resources – read on!

I'm not going to purport to teach you all that you need to know about vCloud Director in this post. Honestly, I'm still learning about it and I am sure that most enterprise customers out there are still trying to visualize how "the cloud" will help them. Instead, what I am going to do is to give you an excellent list of resources that you can study to learn in your own time (many of which I am using myself).

I have broken this list of vCloud Director resources down into categories to help group similar resources together. Here you go:

VMware Official Resources

vCloud Director Resources on the Web

vCloud Director Videos on the Web

Special Thank You to Haney Michael at Hypervizor.com for the following list of vCD Videos from VMware, on YouTube:

Upcoming vCloud Director Resources

With vCloud Director being a version "1.0.0" product, there will absolutely be many more features and much more maturity from the product over the next few months and years. Along with that, there will be many more vCloud Director resources being release (such as John Arrasjid's book). Stay tuned to my blog posts for more information on vCloud Director!

David Davis is a VMware Evangelist and vSphere Video Training Author for Train Signal. He has achieved CCIE, VCP,CISSP, and vExpert level status over his 15+ years in the IT industry. David has authored hundreds of articles on the Internet and nine different video training courses for TrainSignal.com including the popular vSphere video training package. Learn more about David at his blog or on Twitter and check out a sample of his VMware vSphere video training course from TrainSignal.com!

Sharepoint 2010 Server in Terremark vCloud Express

Matthew D. Sarrel, Sarrel Group

Today I’m rolling out a Sharepoint 2010 Server in my Terremark environment.  From time to time my test projects involve sharing information with other team members so it will be helpful for me to have a document repository on my test network.  Besides, it’s so easy to provision a new virtual machine that I might as well do it in my Terremark environment.

I’ll start by creating a Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit VM based on a template as described in my earlier post. 

Incidentally, I noticed that Terremark added some security questions to the login procedure.  I like to see incremental improvements like that.  It shows me the dev team is on its toes.

Next I connect through the SSL VPN and open a console session. 

I added the new server to my local workgroup and created a share from Windows.

Then I upload the SharePoint 2010 .iso file simply by copying it.  I had downloaded it previously from MSDN.

Next, I’ll mount the SharePoint 2010 installation ISO.  I tried to mount it within the console but it turned out to be more efficient to mount it through Windows.

I found instructions, downloaded the utility and mounted the ISO.

And the ultimate step – installing the SharePoint 2010 software can begin.


Matthew D. Sarrel (or Matt Sarrel) is executive director of Sarrel Group, a technology product testing, editorial services, and technical marketing consulting company.  He also holds editorial positions at pcmag.com, eweek, GigaOM, and Allbusiness.com, and blogs at TopTechDog.

How You Can Beat Amazon EC2 by Differentiating Your Cloud Service

Steve Jin, VMware R&D

This entry was reposted from DoubleCloud.org, a blog for architects and developers on virtualization and cloud computing.

With the gradual adoption of cloud computing, more companies are coming to the cloud service business. With so many new players in the game, how can you stand out in the competition as a service provider? In a marketplace already dominated by companies like Amazon, do you even have a chance?

Yes, you do! Differentiate.

I recently read a book, “Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition” by Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin. Although it mainly talks about differentiation ideas in traditional businesses, it does offer good insights that can be applied in the cloud service business as well.

Conventional wisdom

Before we get to cloud services, let us take a look at what Jack and Steve say about differentiation. They first discuss some commonly held misconceptions about differentiating ideas:

  • Quality and Customer Orientation Are Rarely Differentiating Ideas
  • Creativity Is Not a Differentiating Idea
  • Price is Rarely a Differentiating Idea
  • Breadth of Line is a Difficult Way to Differentiate

Then, they listed possible differentiating strategies:

  • Being First is a Differentiating Idea
  • Attribute Ownership is a Way to Differentiate
  • Leadership is a Way to Differentiate
  • Heritage is a Differentiating Idea
  • Market Specialty is a Differentiating Idea
  • Preference is a Differentiating Idea
  • How a Product is Made Can Be a Differentiating Idea
  • Being the Latest Can Be a Differentiating Idea
  • Hotness is a Way to Differentiate
  • Being Different in Different Places
  • Maintaining Your difference

In the end, the authors discussed the possible pitfalls on the way of differentiation:

  • Growth Can Destroy Differentiation
  • Differentiation Often Requires Sacrifice

My Top 7 Differentiation Ideas for the Cloud

While the book provides great insights about differentiation strategies, you want to put these strategies in the context of cloud services. Normally it requires thorough thinking over your business and prioritizing possible strategies accordingly.

Given the nature of cloud services and the current market phase, I would recommend the following as top differentiation ideas:

1. Being First
Just think about Amazon EC2. Being the first gives it a huge advantage in marketing its service. While Amazon has taken the first run at differentiating its service as IaaS, you can always try another “first.” It can be “first” of a particular service, or in a particular country/area. This is especially important while the cloud server market is still in its developing phase.

2. Leadership and Innovation
People like to follow leaders. Being a leader in either technology or a service always gives an advantage. You end up with more media coverage and spend less money. Customers, and revenues, follow.

3. Attribute Ownership
Much as Volvo owns the “safety car” attribute, your cloud service product can own the “security” attribute, for example. There are many other possible attributes for a cloud service, including performance, reliability, choice, ecosystem, and easy management.
Always remember, don’t copy your competitors. Seize the unique attribute that defines your service.

4. Market Specialty
There are many different types of customers from different industries from different geographies. You can target precisely one of these groups say IT outsourcing sector. Your service could host different languages and platforms for that cause. Perhaps you could target the enterprise Java market in Asia.

5. Premium Product Backed Service
Like a limo driver bragging that he drives a BMW instead of a Toyota, you can brag about the premium hardware and software like VMware used in your datacenter. It not only differentiates your service but also offers your customer a reason to pay a premium price.

6. Being the Latest
To keep up with the competition, you have to keep innovating all the time. You don’t want to be pushed by the market and your customers for new services. Instead, lead them.

7. Hotness
I think Apple is a good example of being hot as a technology fashion company. You can learn from what it does.

While differentiating helps you find a position in your marketplace for better marketing your services, in the end you still need to deliver it.

What differentiation strategy do you use in your cloud service offering?

Steve Jin is the author of VMware VI and vSphere SDK (Prentice Hall), creator of VMware vSphere Java API. For future articles, please subscribe to Email or RSS, and follow on Twitter.

“Last Inch” of Cloud Computing

Steve Jin, VMware R&D

This entry was reposted from DoubleCloud.org, a blog for architects and developers on virtualization and cloud computing.

The “last mile” or “last kilometer” is a term in the networking industry describing “the close to end connectivity from a communication service provider to a customer”. Although your infrastructure like backbones is very powerful, your end user experience could suffer if your last mile is not there yet.

For cloud computing, we’ve talked a lot about the data centers, backend servers. What about the end users? Your cloud data center could be very powerful too, but does it mean your users will fully leverage that power? Not necessarily. It depends on how you deliver the service to them.

Because cloud service is delivered with traditional network, the traditional network “last mile” issue is there as well. You surely need a good, if not better, connection to the network.

Beyond the connectivity, you will need good interfaces for your users to interact with the cloud. Let me go over the “last inch” options here.

Web interfaces

Most applications running in cloud have Web interfaces so they work similarly to a traditional provisioning model. For end users, they don’t even know their Web applications live in cloud. And honestly, they don’t care.

Users can also use cloud computing indirectly. The Web servers serving contents to end users can leverage API services for data, messaging, etc., provided by the servers in the cloud.

In either of the case, the performance may be better than traditional model because applications can scale easily in the cloud.

Desktop virtual machines

You can use cloud differently, more than Web based applications. In some cases, you can expose the desktop of your virtual machines to the end users. One simple way is to leverage PCoIP or RDP protocols connecting the OS that runs on virtual machines in the cloud. For OSes that support X-Window, you can export the screen to your local computer. It’s all up to you and the OS.

Another way can occur on the hypervisor level which transmits the video buffer of a virtual machine to end users who need special software, standalone application or browser plug-in, e.g., to render it. It depends on the type, and possibly version, of hypervisor. The advantage is that you can see the screen of a virtual machine even there is no OS installed yet.

Portable devices

With wide adoption of devices like iPhone, iPad, Android, etc. today, consumers have more choices than ever. While you can still use browsers on these devices, you would also like other alternatives that fully leverage native style user interfaces.

In fact, even native style user interfaces could use same protocols as Web applications. It’s just a different way to present same contents.

Multiple Devices One Workspace

When you have desktop, laptop, and several different devices, you would prefer to have one workspace so that you don’t need to sync works among them. The convenience of multiple devices could easily turn into hassles keeping these synced. How to get the convenience and easy management?

You can leverage cloud computing to help. You can save your workspace and data including documents, media clips, and profile, in a cloud so that you can access it anytime, anywhere. We can call it a personal cloud. The key is that applications running in different places can understand ad comply with same data formats.

In some cases, you will need to convert your contents so that they can be easily consumed by different devices. For example, you like high definition video to play as it is on your desktop, but not on an iPhone whose screen is much smaller. Then you need to convert the video to smaller size before it’s screamed to network. Cloud computing is definitely a great help here. A lot of innovations will happen in this area.

Steve Jin is the author of VMware VI and vSphere SDK (Prentice Hall), creator of VMware vSphere Java API. For future articles, please subscribe to Email or RSS, and follow on Twitter.

Object Model of VMware vCloud API: The Big Picture in 2 Minutes

Steve Jin, VMware R&D

This entry was reposted from DoubleCloud.org, a blog for architects and developers on virtualization and cloud computing.

VMware released the long-awaited vCloud API at VMworld 2010. The API is based on REST with 75 URLs defined in the user related part as you would find in the vCloud API Specification and vCloud API Programming Guide.

I am an OO guy (I am sure many of you are as well), and find it difficult to go through the 75 URLs and numerous XML tags as either input or return. These URLs are like trees in a forest. But where is the forest?

So I decided to create and show you a UML diagram (shown below) so that you can easily capture the key concepts of the vCloud API. In fact, there was a similar diagram in the programming guide of version 0.8.


After studying the diagram and the types, you can understand the overall conceptual model on what to expect with vCloud and the API. You can also understand what to expect from the URLs by associating three operations with each type:

1.     get, which lists the content of an entity, and possibly its child entities.

2.     modify or set, which changes the existing settings. Depending on the complexity of the entity, there may be multiple operations, each of which changes a section of the overall settings.

3.     remove or delete, which destroys an existing entity.

There are other operations, including power on and power off vApps, virtual machines, etc. But the above three types of operations represent more than half of the URLs.

If you are interested to know more about REST and OO, you should read my previous blog: REST or SOAP.

Steve Jin is the author of VMware VI and vSphere SDK (Prentice Hall), creator of VMware vSphere Java API. For future articles, please subscribe to Email or RSS, and follow on Twitter.

How to Avoid Virtual Machine Sprawl in the Cloud Age

Steve Jin, VMware R&D

This entry was reposted from DoubleCloud.org, a blog for architects and developers on virtualization and cloud computing.

Technology can be a lot like fashion, with quickly shifting trends. Once we embraced big iron but after the mainframe age the industry went into the client/server age where we soon found too many servers to manage. So we consolidated them, not back to the mainframe age, but onto hypervisors. With one physical server, you could run multiple virtual machines.

Server consolidation solved a big problem and resulted in big cost savings. From management’s point of view, however, it does not actually reduce the number of servers to manage in your enterprise. To some extent, it worsens the problem!  In some circumstances it’s so easy and inexpensive to create a new virtual machine that you end up with many more servers than you really want – or can effectively manage. This problem not only exists in private clouds, but also in the public cloud.

According to VMware CEO Paul Maritz in his keynote at VMworld 2010, the number of virtual machines exceeded physical machines in 2009, and will reach 10 million by the end of this year. This is definitely great news for the virtualization software industry but also a challenge moving forward.

So how should you try to solve the problem of virtual machine sprawl or even better, prevent it from happening? I discuss some solutions one by one here.

Better management

The pure number of servers poses a big challenge for management. For every additional server, you have to configure and manage it. This effort is proportional with the number of servers – despite virtualization.

While we cannot reduce the work in the back, we can definitely ease the interaction, and reduce the management complexity.

Here are several approaches:

1. Grouping. Putting related servers in a container group and managing the container can significantly reduce the complexity. You can hide the servers unless you want to dig down for more details. vSphere vApp is a good example.

2. Generalization. It’s a special type of grouping in which you can define generic behavior/settings while allowing group members to override any of them. You can think of the port group in vSphere networking as an example.

3. Aspect oriented management. You don’t look at all aspects, but one aspect of all the entities. Then, you have to handle one thing at a time. Need an example? Think about the profile management in vSphere Client. When focusing on one aspect at a time, a human being can handle complexity better.

4. Automation. Automating routine tasks and operations through scripting and programming is also critical. No one can afford clicking and typing all from GUIs in a large-scale system.

Different architectures

Server sprawl is a problem mainly because every server is different. We have to keep it even though there is only very small piece of user data that is unique, not to mention different applications. What if we could externalize user data and make all the servers the same? This way we don’t need to care much about particular virtual machines, and we can trash them anytime we want. When appropriate, we can also recycle used virtual machines.

This brings in big benefits – not only the ease of provisioning and lifecycle management but also simplification of system backup, auditing, etc.

Any disadvantages? You have to re-think your platform architecture. Legacy applications have to be re-architected and rebuilt, which may or may not be worth the effort given a particular project in a given scope.

Follow this blog for future architectural tips. I will blog more about this soon.

Merging virtual machines

Virtualization also consolidates virtual machines but does not break the boundary of multiple virtual machines. The consolidated virtual machines continue to run exactly the same way as before. The migration process is seamless and painless.

How about a step further? We can break the boundary of virtual machines and merge multiple virtual machines into one. This may sound crazy but it’s feasible for some types of virtual machines.

Let’s pick a concrete example. Say we have several virtual machines serving web content. They can easily be combined into one virtual machine by copying files and configuring virtual host features in a web server like Apache. From a users’ perspective, there is no noticeable difference.

The disadvantage is that we lose the built-in isolation by virtual machines. Sometimes you care about isolation; sometimes you don’t. When you don’t, you should definitely consider this.

Technically it may be difficult, if not impossible. For example, if you have applications running on Windows then the tight coupling with the system registry may prevent you from moving applications around. Certainly you want application virtualization technology like VMware ThinApp so that you can easy move apps by simply copying the application directory.

After all, you don’t want to merge the virtual machines manually. A good merging tool is definitely a big help here. It’s also an opportunity for some entrepreneurs to start a company because I don’t see such a tool available today.

Steve Jin is author of VMware VI & vSphere SDK (Prentice Hall), founder of open source VI Java API, and is the chief blogger at DoubleCloud.org.

5 Things Medium-Sized Businesses Need to Know about Cloud Computing

By David Davis

While walking the solutions expo show floor at VMworld 2010, I realized that the mindset of service providers and software companies had changed since last VMworld. This year, just about all the vendors, no matter what their perspective was, seemed to embrace the cloud as "the future" and they had wrapped their particular solution in that cloud message. An article from CIO.com (Cloud Computing: VMworld 2010 Report) covered how unified the cloud computing message was at VMworld and how "the cloud gets real" with vendors offering "second generation products". True, the cloud message, understanding, and product features are advancing but what about the end users?

While the cloud is all the rage among vendors, it is my opinion that, in the past, the overuse and over marketing of "the cloud" by some vendors may have tainted the message with many real-world admins and IT Management. In my opinion, even experienced "IT people" in large enterprises are still trying to wrap their head around what this "cloud thing" really means to them, in their day to day life. And that means that IT Directors, Managers, and Systems Admins from small and medium-sized companies, I would estimate, are generally confused about what "the cloud" really means and if it will ever mean anything for their company. I admire VMware for "leading the charge" on cloud computing but any concept this "world changing" will take time to be fully comprehended and embraced by those in the IT departments around the world. However, that doesn't mean that you should sit around and wait – quite the contrary. Now is the time to weed through the cloud fluff and educate.

Let's say that you are an "IT-Guy" at a medium-size company. You have virtualized about half of your servers with vSphere and like the idea of virtualization. You are being barraged by companies trying to sell you cloud computing. Recently the clerk at the local convenience store and your copier repair guy asked you when you are going to "move to the cloud" (I exaggerate). What do YOU really need to know about cloud computing, from a practical sense? Surely there is some value in "the cloud" but how do you cut through the propaganda? Here are 5 things that you need to understand to cut though the hype and make the cloud work for you.

1.    Cloud Computing isn't "hosting renamed" – I admit, the first time I heard about cloud computing my initial reaction was that it sounded like server hosting renamed. With "hosting," servers from your datacenter are moved to a provider. They could be managed or co-located. Either way, hosting is only related to cloud computing in the sense that both are from service providers. With Cloud Computing, all computing resources are pooled (and virtualized), processes are automated, there is self-service, interoperability, and you only pay for what you use.

2.    Cloud Computing has real practical business use for businesses your size – cloud computing isn't just for large enterprises. It is for anyone at any size company. Still, you need to know your applications to know if they will work with cloud computing. Initially, the ideal cloud applications may be "test and dev". After that, I would look at Internet facing web applications but you don't have to stop there. Given the right bandwidth between the users and the cloud, really any applications could be moved. Most medium-size companies have test apps, development apps, web-apps, or even virtual desktops. These are all ideal applications to get your company started with cloud computing.

3.    Cloud Computing can save your company and your department money – I worked at a medium-sized family owned company where it was easier to win the lotto than it was to get a capital expenditure (capex) approved. Day-to-day operational expenditure (opex) didn't have the same approval process. All opex came out of the IT department budget and was pretty easy to get approved, if it made sense. Cloud computing is going to move IT infrastructure expenses from the capex "someday" request queue to an opex approval. Besides the pain and suffering this will save you, you will also get the infrastructure you need and the overall cost will be less.

4.    Cloud Computing will free you from spending your day managing the infrastructure so that you can apply the power of the infrastructure at your company – as an "IT person", where is your time best spent? Building servers? Worrying about downtime? Checking backup logs? The answer is "none of the above". Because we know technology so well (it’s our job, right?), our time is best spent evangelizing technology in our company and demonstrating how tech can increase profitability (also make the business case for our own value to the organization). We do nothing to prove our worth by just "keeping the servers up". End users and senior managers have just come to expect "uptime". You need to wow them with powerful mergers of technology and your business processes that vastly improve productivity, customer loyalty, or business agility. Cloud computing is here to allow you to do that. By moving to cloud computing, you will find the best utilization of your time and, thus, the company's investment in you.

5.    Cloud Computing will force you to change the way that you "look at IT" – start changing your mindset now. Even with virtualization, IT infrastructure and the datacenter resources making it possible are being wasted. With cloud computing, all IT hardware resources will be shared at a cloud service provider and you will only pay for what you use. You can even connect your public cloud to your existing virtual infrastructure (private cloud) to create a "hybrid cloud". If a developer requests a new server to test a new application, save yourself lots of time and headache (as well as money). Instead, get out your company credit card and spin up a virtual machine on your iPad from the local coffee shop then bill the charges to his cost center (you never even had to install hardware or software).

In the end, what do I recommend for that medium-size "IT Guy" when it comes to cloud computing? 1. Keep educating yourself. Cut through the fluff and spot the value 2. Look at every solution from a practical approach and throw out anything that isn't a fit for a company of your size (you will find the ones that are) 3. Be selfish and always ask how the cloud is going to help you today and everyday hereafter – cloud solutions must have readily obvious value.

David Davis is a VMware Evangelist and vSphere Video Training Author for Train Signal (www.TrainSignal.com). He has achieved CCIE, VCP,CISSP, and vExpert level status over his 15+ years in the IT industry. David has authored hundreds of articles on the Internet and nine different video training courses for TrainSignal.com including the popular vSphere video training package. Learn more about David at his blog (www.VMwareVideos.com) or on Twitter (www.Twitter.com/davidmdavis) and check out a sample of his VMware vSphere video training course from TrainSignal.com!

Cloud Computing Companies Earn Awards at VMworld 2010

By David Davis

While at VMworld 2010, I was a judge for TechTarget's Best of VMworld 2010 awards and, as part of that process, I filtered through 30+ different vendors offering virtualization management solutions for VMware and struggled to recommend just 3 of those for awards. While I wasn't part of the new private & public cloud provider categories, I did learn a lot during the 3+ hour deliberation process. Judges from every category discussed why they felt that the companies in their respective categories were or weren't deserving of the prize.

As I believe that VMware's cloud computing initiative will transform IT departments, I was especially keen on hearing the winners of the private and public/hybrid cloud categories. I noted each of the winners in those categories and I have listed them below with a summary of what makes their offering standout from the competition (again, I wasn't a judge in that category so most of this reasoning comes from my experience visiting their booth at VMworld or from visiting their website):

Private Cloud

Judges said that NewScale 9 "brings the iPhone experience to the enterprise". Probably more accurately, NewScale takes the concept of the iTunes App store and offers your IT services in such a format while taking this idea many steps further. Let me explain, with NewScale 9, the IT services offered by your company will be displayed in an online catalog. End users can request those IT services and each will have its own price tag. Then, those services can be "managed from cradle to grave" with NewScale lifecycle manager.

Think about it, consider how much more value the end users would see if the services offered by IT were clearly explained to them and if each had associated price tags. If organizations can really consume IT in this way, IT can be more easily understood, costs can be lowered, end users can change their perception of IT.

Finally, with NewScale Front Office supporting not only Amazon EC2 but also the new VMware vCloud Director and the VMware vCloud API, I can see why NewScale was a logical choice for the judges.


Built to speed up development of software appliances and virtual appliances. The only solution of its kind, rBuilder has provided the packaging and distribution for many appliances like OpenFiler, Zenoss, Foresight Linux, and Asterisk. Once applications are deployed, rPath can provide "full lifecycle management" and automated system updates.

What rBuilder offers is a sort of VMware virtual appliance marketplace but it takes it a step further by allowing you to deploy these virtual appliances directly to platforms like EC2, VMware, or Xen.


Public/ Hybrid Cloud Computing

According to the judges, Terremark's Gold-Winning cloud offering, which is based on VMware virtualization, "provides security services that supersede anything IT pros can build in-house". Personally, I think that Terremark must have an outstanding product if they are confident enough to call it "THE" Enterprise Cloud.

Terremark's cloud is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and uses vSphere as the underlying virtualization platform. Instead of customers requesting or paying for "servers", with "enterprise cloud", they only pay for the compute resources that they use. What impressed me the most is the very user-friendly interface along with the advanced features that the interface provides (load-balancing, firewalling, and private network integration).


What I have heard most about SkyTap is that they "make the cloud easy". After seeing their variety of integrated cloud features and their impressive interface, I can see why. The Skytap cloud can be used for application development, app testing, migration, virtual private clouds, virtual training, sales demonstrations, and proof of concept. I am especially impressed by the virtual private cloud feature that allows enterprises to connect their internal network to the Skytap cloud, securely, thus enabling the hybrid cloud. Skytap says that one of their greatest benefits to enterprises is reducing TCO by about 50% as compared to in-house solutions. Any company that can do that is worth checking out.

If you are a .NET developer, Azure is a great platform as a service (PaaS) but don't confuse it with the IaaS offerings from Skytap and Terremark. Azure allows you to deploy .NET and SQL server-based apps to the Internet. You can learn more about Azure with their nice "stick figure" videos on their getting started with Azure webpage.

In summary, VMworld was an awesome experience where new products were announced, companies were acquired, and awards were given. I was honored to speak at VMworld as well as serve as a judge for the best of VMworld competition. Through the difficult judging process all judges learned a lot about the product offerings from hundreds of companies and, in the end, we were glad to award a few companies for their amazing products. 

David Davis is a VMware Evangelist and vSphere Video Training Author for Train Signal. He has achieved CCIE, VCP,CISSP, and vExpert level status over his 15+ years in the IT industry. David has authored hundreds of articles on the Internet and nine different video training courses for TrainSignal.com including the popular vSphere video training package. Learn more about David at his blog or on Twitter and check out a sample of his VMware vSphere video training course from TrainSignal.com!

Thoughts on VMworld: vSphere, vCloud and the Meaning of “Open”

By Massimo Re Ferre’, Staff Systems Engineer – vCloud Architect

This year’s VMworld was crazier than ever—and a return to our geekier roots. And, as I promised in an earlier post,  this year’s event would be a lot of fun for those attending for the simple reason that geek=crazy=fun. Well, I can proudly say I delivered on my promise. Hmm, this sounds like VMworld was my thing whereas, I just helped (not even that much) to make it the success that it was.

One of the things getting a lot of buzz this year was all the arguments about what it means to be “open”. Yeah, right, what on earth does that mean anyway?

I think being open means a lot of things to a lot of different people. When I started my adventure at IBM 16 years ago we would have called Windows and the UNIX platforms “open”. In 2010, if you were to call Windows, AIX or HP-UX “open” many people would laugh at you. So what on earth does "open" mean, then?

In my opinion, it fundamentally boils down to two very different definitions depending on who you are or, what you do. On one hand, it has more to do with open source. On the other hand, it can refer to the concept of "choice" and avoiding “lock-in”.

Now, let me make one caveat. If you are in the business of making money out of hacking source code, or you are in the business of taking advantage of fixing a bug in a piece of software that you downloaded off the Internet, please make sure you stop reading. This post is probably not for you.

However, this post is for those people that make money out of everything else than the two scenarios described above. And based on my experience this is the vast majority of the market participants out there. So I’ll make a bold statement and say that most of the people look at this matter from a “choice” vs. “lock-in” perspective. With this in mind I’d like to walk through what we at VMware are trying to do to make vSphere and vCloud open. Again I want to remind you that I am going through this with the eyes of the end-user (i.e. a VMware customer) and not with the eyes of someone that is trying to leverage the open source code to build something fancy for either the sake of doing it, or for selling it to the end-user in some way.

Let's start with a picture. I’ll walk step by step through it to explain how we’re creating an open platform for cloud computing.


First step: Virtualization

This is easy. VMware customers buy vSphere and they have a tremendous choice of hardware platforms to choose from with regards to servers, storage and network subsystems. While VMware is adding a layer of abstraction, we are certainly not in the business of commoditizing that. Almost every vendor out there has been using our APIs to expose their own peculiar features inside our environment and we have leveraged those features to provide our joint customers with a better experience. This is, for example, what EMC and NetApp have done for years now from a storage subsystem perspective.

By the way, I had an interesting discussion regarding this matter: someone was making the point that if he had leveraged a particular vendor's feature that all the other vendors did not have, he would be effectively locked-in to that vendor. That was an interesting point of view. I’d look at the thing in a very different manner: typically any of these special features build on top of standard functionalities so you have a choice of either going back to the standard functionalities or continue to use that vendor for that peculiar feature. For the records this is called innovation, not lock-in.

Okay, so at this point some of you may be thinking that you are locked-in to the VMware abstraction layer. I wouldn’t say that. There are tons of tools out there capable of doing Virtual to Virtual (V2V) and I can tell you it wouldn’t take too much to convert your VM into another format to run onto another hypervisor. Come on folks, we are not talking about one million lines of COBOL  that you can’t possibly rewrite, so you are stuck forever on your mainframe. We are talking about a button or, a drag and drop operation, where you say: “I want to move this VM from here to there”. It’s as simple as that.

Yet, I haven’t seen this happen very often. Why is that? Because many of the VMware end-users understand that the value they are extracting from our software is well worth the money they are spending. And if you feel someone didn't want to leave the platform because of its unique value proposition, I encourage you to think about the innovation vs. lock-in paragraph above. These customers have a choice, but they have chosen not to leverage it, and for good reason, I’d say! They can always do this in the future if they want; I don’t see the V2V tools disappearing anytime soon.

In addition to this the standards that are being created, like the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) for example, will make this flexibility even more evident. Furthermore, we have been promoting this standard because we want to keep our customers and make them happy based on value delivered and not based on lock-in tactics. 

Second step: Jumping into the Cloud

Now, let's change gears. The phase we are entering in today is all about helping customers to extend (if they want) their private (i.e. internal) deployments into the public cloud, which effectively creates a hybrid environment. During my session at VMworld I  demonstrated a very neat (I believe) piece of technology we are working on that allows you, from your vSphere client, to map a portion of a public cloud and either instantiate your templates there, or move an existing workload there–and all from the same interface. This is a technology preview of something called the vCloud Client Plug-in.

So, what do I mean by “map” anyway? That’s where the vCloud program comes into play. Our service provider partners are using VMware vCloud Director to implement a standard interface based on the vCloud API, which, in turn, has been submitted to the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) for cloud standardization.

So, essentially, our end-users have a choice of connecting to different service providers to source the additional capacity. This would allow them to extend their local datacenters into the cloud. Let me reiterate a key point: customers have a choice of service providers. You can see this as very similar to the experience I have described above to source in-house server, storage and networks leveraging multiple OEM partners. In fact, each service provider would deliver core functionalities, as well as, add-on functionalities that you may find attractive depending on what you are trying to achieve. See my point above regarding innovation.

Now, from an end-user perspective, we should be covered because you have a choice of selecting your preferred source of capacity, be it an OEM or a service provider. Of course, as I said, you have also the choice of using V2V tools to move away from the local vSphere platform if you chose to do so.

Let’s turn to the service provider side for a moment. If you are a service provider you may find it appealing to federate with some of the 190,000 VMware vSphere customers out there by helping them run a better overall IT service.

You may think these service providers would need a VMware “stack” to provide these on-demand services. Well, while I would personally say that this should be arguably considered their best choice, this not technically accurate. It all boils down to exposing the vCloud API to the end-user. VMware vCloud Director would be able to expose them for you out-of-the-box, but you can go ahead and build that layer and interfaces for yourself since the vCloud API is well documented.

You can even go a step further and choose not use vSphere if you wish. If you want to federate with vSphere end-users the service provider would have to deal with having to change the disk format from the Virtual Machine Disk Format (VMDK) to another format. Arguably, this may not be the smartest thing to do, but it is something you can technically do. Most of the service providers I have been working with are telling me that they are not in the business of creating this "cloud backbone". What they are telling me is that they want to buy that backbone as an off-the-shelf product. And, that brings me to the next and last point.  

The last concern for service providers is how they can differentiate their offerings among one another. I covered this topic in another blog post, but in a nutshell what I’m talking about is the backbone for creating an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud-based backbone. The service provider has at least a number of things they can do to create customized and unique services on top of this backbone. I am talking about "unique" services in the context of innovation of course, not lock-in.

In conclusion, it appears to me that no one is locked-in to VMware and everybody—customers and partners alike–has a lot of choice. I don’t know if that qualifies as “open” but calling it “closed” is certainly a marketing stretch. (Or wishful thinking on the part of our competitors.) That’s my opinion at least. If you have a different take, then I’d like to hear that too.


More VMware Cloud Director Support for vCloud from Zenoss

By Josh Duncan, Product Marketing Manager at Zenoss 

The Zenoss team has been busy at VMworld talking with customers and learning lots about what is going on in the cloud and virtualization space.  We made a big announcement at the conference about Zenoss support for VMWare's vCloud offering.

I asked Chet Luther, principal engineer at Zenoss, to give a quick introduction to our announcement while at the conference this week.

What’s in it for cloud providers using vCloud? For them, Zenoss offers real-time visibility into the resources required to operate a private or public cloud at scale. Providers need visibility into which customers are using what resources, what users/workloads are causing performance problems, and what is the root cause of these problems. They need to know when they are going to run out of capacity and where, and what customers will be affected.  

Zenoss provides a service assurance console enabling operational insights from across all your physical and virtual devices and into your vCloud infrastructure.  With automatic discovery and mapping of the dependencies between the components in the cloud and a map that updates in real-time based on changes to the environment, gives customer improved service delivery, faster time to resolution on operational issues, delegated administration, and access to the operational insight needed for capacity planning and management.

Check out our full demo here to learn more on Zenoss and vCloud management.