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The following is a guest post from Kit Colbert, CTO – Cloud Platform Business Unit at VMware. Previously, Kit served as VP and CTO of the Cloud-Native Apps Business Unit at VMware. Kit helps drive the VMware vision across vSphere, VMware Cloud on AWS, and Cloud-Native Apps. He also moved back to a CTO role, focusing on technology, strategy, SDLC(DevOps), and evangelism. Follow him on Twitter @kitcolbert.

Today at the VMworld Day 1 General Session, we announced a new effort from VMware called Project Dimension.  Pat and Ray only had a few minutes to cover it, I’m sure many people are excited by the announcement but are looking for more details.  That’s what this blog post is here for!

Background

We’ve seen tremendous interest and customer success with our own cloud infrastructure offering, VMware Cloud.  With VMware Cloud on AWS, customers can simply swipe a credit card or click a button and get a new Software-defined Datacenter (SDDC) provisioned automatically for them.  They don’t need to think through the specifics of the hardware, infrastructure, or software; the best practices for configuring it; upgrading or patching the infrastructure; or availability of the infrastructure. Instead VMware Cloud customers can focus developing and running their applications to differentiate their business.

As we talked to customers about VMware Cloud, we heard time and again how they appreciated the simplicity of the cloud-delivered as-a-service model.  Yet these customers also talked about how they will continue to need on-premises infrastructure.  Whether in their datacenters or edge locations, they needed local compute for reasons of latency, business continuity, or cost.  In other words, customers wanted the cloud experience, where infrastructure is delivered as-a-service, but they wanted it on-premises.

Intro to Project Dimension

So we started to think: what if we could deliver the same radical simplicity as VMware Cloud but do it for customers’ on-premises datacenter and edge locations?  This was the genesis of Project Dimension.

Project Dimension will extend VMware Cloud to deliver SDDC infrastructure and hardware as-a-service to on-premises locations.  Because this is will be a  service, it means that VMware can take care of managing the infrastructure, troubleshooting issues, and performing patching and maintenance.  This in turn means customers can focus on differentiating their business building innovative applications rather than spending time on day-to-day infrastructure management.

Technically Project Dimension has two primary components.  First, there’s the full power of the SDDC with VMware Cloud Foundation at the on-premises edge and datacenter locations.  We combine compute, storage, and network capabilities with optimized hardware so that applications have a consistent environment to what they have in other VMware environments.  As I’m sure you know, VMware’s battle-tested vSphere infrastructure stack provides isolation, security, performance, availability, and much more.  vSAN is built-in, enabling a lightweight HCI architecture.  Project Dimension also leverages NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud to enable  connectivity with other regions – edge, datacenter, or cloud.

Second, we have a unified Hybrid Cloud Control Plane that runs as part of VMware Cloud as a SaaS service.  Today on VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware engineers and site reliability engineers (SREs) manage all customer SDDCs behind the scenes, monitoring them and addressing problems as they are detected, as well as pushing updates and patches.  The same concept applies to edge and on-premises datacenter locations.  VMware can monitor all Project Dimension infrastructure locations for any problems and proactively fix them.  In addition, VMware deals with all our infrastructure software and firmware upgrades and patches.

We put together a short video to more visually illustrate how Project Dimension will work, with a specific focus on edge environments (we’ll get to more on edge in a minute!).

Integrated Workflows

A key part of Project Dimension is working with our hardware partners to provide seamless top-to-bottom integration.  Let’s walk through each of the different aspects of this integration:

  • Initial Deployment: we will provide a true zero-touch provisioning experience by working with our hardware partners to customize the hardware at the factory. After that, we will provide a consumer-like plug-and-play experience: once the Project Dimension servers are plugged in, they will automatically connect to VMware Cloud and self-configure.
  • Patching and Upgrading: VMware takes care of all patching and upgrades, relieving customers from this tedious, time-consuming, and error-prone task. We will leverage our expertise with VMware Cloud on AWS to seamlessly push updates to Project Dimension infrastructure just like we do in the cloud.  Of course firmware updates are included too!
  • Monitoring and Troubleshooting: Again, customers will no longer need to worry about infrastructure availability. Instead VMware engineers and SREs, working closely with our hardware partners, will monitor customers’ SDDCs and hardware and take proactive actions if any issues are detected (even dispatching a hardware service technician to your location when needed).

We’re excited to be partnering with DellEMC and Lenovo on Project Dimension as we prepare to deliver on a seamless customer experience.  There’s a lot of innovation to be done to realize the full power of this model and we’re delighted that both DellEMC and Lenovo are bringing their differentiated technologies to bear on this important area.

Project Dimension Benefits

OK, so all the tech is very cool, but how does Project Dimension help you drive greater business agility?  Well we see a few key value propositions:

  • Reduce operational complexity and costs: I hope it’s clear that Project Dimension may dramatically simplify your on-premises environment.  We will handle everything from initial deployment to patching and upgrade to monitoring and remediation to giving you a global view of all your infrastructure across datacenter and edge.
  • Operational consistency with cloud and datacenter: Project Dimension will provide the SDDC stack on-premises, providing full runtime compatibility with other vSphere-based datacenter and cloud locations. In addition, all the operational tooling that you use for your datacenter and cloud locations will be applied to Project Dimension locations.
  • Broad and diverse set of application services: Differentiated application services, such as databases and messaging systems are key to business agility. VMware and Project Dimension are uniquely positioned to offer a wide array of services from our broad ecosystem partners, as is evidenced by our announcement today of AWS Greengrass and RDS support on VMware infrastructure.

Edge Computing

Finally, I want to make sure we double-click on edge computing and the challenges there.  By “edge,” I mean compute located at non-datacenter and non-cloud locations, such as retail stores, factories, oil rigs, etc.  Edge isn’t new – it’s been around forever (indeed many customers use vSphere ROBO at their edge locations today!).  What’s changing is the rise of IoT and the amount of data that’s being generated and the need to be processed at the edge.  Specifically we see the following reasons for computing at the edge:

  • Real-time business decisions: sending all the data generated at the edge to the cloud is slow. Businesses that need real-time decisions can’t wait for that roundtrip.  Instead they need local processing of the data with minimum latency.
  • Cost reduction: sending all the raw data back to a central cloud can also be extremely costly due to bandwidth use. It is far cheaper to process the data locally, after which a much smaller amount of processed data can be sent to the cloud for additional analysis.
  • Business continuity: customers want their edge locations to be operational even in the face of network failure or power failure problems, requiring local compute for high availability. The show must go on!

VMware is committed to helping our customers to realize cloud-like agility at the edge.  Today  we unveiled our broader edge strategy called VMware Edge:

As you can see, Project Dimension fits in at the “compute edge” tier – i.e. the part of the edge focused on doing heavier computation locally – and thus plays a key role in VMware’s overall edge strategy.  We’re very excited to engage with customers on their edge challenges!

Summary and Additional Resources

So, in summary, we believe Project Dimension will provide a huge opportunity for customers to significantly enhance their ability to deliver at the edge and on-premises datacenter.  Please reach out to us at dimension@vmware.com to learn more!

About the Author

Kit Colbert

Kit Colbert is VP & CTO, Cloud-Native Apps at VMware, driving strategy and product development of third platform application solutions across the company. Previously, he was CTO of VMware's End-User Computing business unit, Chief Architect and Principal Engineer for Workspace Portal, and the lead Management Architect for VMware vSphere Operations Suite. At the start of the career, he was the technical lead behind the creation, development, and delivery of the vMotion and Storage vMotion features in vSphere. Kit holds a ScB in Computer Science from Brown University and is recognized as a thought-leader on third platform, end-user computing, and cloud management trends. He speaks regularly at industry conferences, on the main stage at VMworld, and is the Cloud-Native and EUC voice for the VMware Office of the CTO Blog.