VMware and partners point to benefits

By Andy Oram
June 4, 2010 | Comments: 1

Yesterday I took in one of VMware's one-day forums, where a sense of expectancy hung in the air as each speaker stressed the trend toward cloud computing. This expectancy seemed to be expressed more by speakers, who try to stay on the cutting edge of technological change, than by attendees, who are heavily involved in virtualization but probably treating explorations of cloud computing very gingerly.

The cost savings and advantages of virtualization are clear by now. How much can you save? In one instance (probably chosen for its spectacularity) reported by VMware marketing manager Gaetan Castelein, a site replaced its IBM pSeries with an x86, going from 9 POWER5 chips to 8 x86 ones. I assumed that the Intel chips had the same speed as POWER5, about 2.1 GHz. What's really striking is that the 9 POWER5 chips were experiencing 100% utilization, whereas the new x86 chips had only 50%. So virtualization isn't just consolidation; it may be a performance win for other reasons.

Trend Micro speaker Harish Agastya distinguished three levels of virtualization:

  1. Consolidating internal web servers, mail servers, and other commodity systems. This could save the organization about 15% in costs.
  2. Moving mission-critical application servers to virtual systems. This could raise savings to 30%.
  3. Providing most organizational computing on a private or public cloud. This could save 75% or even 80%, and is the end-goal.

I'm not sure what Agastya meant by a "private cloud" (the term has been used inconsistently by different observers), but I assume it means that instead of combining a few local systems, such as mail or database servers, on a single piece of hardware, a large company consolidates all the departmental computing in a single organizational data center and parcels out computing to departments as requested. Although few people in the audience had reached the third stage, the majority were in the second.

VMware is the beneficiary of the move to virtualization because no other company has built up the convenience it offers in tools and high-level features such as vMotion. Furthermore, some of the alternatives don't support Windows, which are still an unchallenged part of nearly every corporate environment. Microsoft's own offerings, Hyper-V and Azure, haven't proven themselves yet.

No competitor is as likely to dislodge VMware as a disruptive technology that threatens to replace virtualization altogether, and that's why VMware is paying more attention to cloud computing than most of its current customers. I think VMware's strategy rests on the characteristics it has built up for its current products: easy bundling, administration, and high-level operation. They figure that no matter where you put your servers--on your own hardware or on Amazon's--you're going to have to manage them in flexible and sophisticated ways.

Therefore, cloud standards (including VMware's own proposed Open Virtualization Format (OVF)) will help VMware a lot. However the cloud market develops--whether the hosts provide easy administrative tools or, as seems to be happening now, third-party administrative sites take on the heavy lifting--VMware can prosper if it makes life easier for whoever has to keep the virtual wheels turning.


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1 Comment

Hi Andy.

The POWER 5 referenced in the vmware comparison is 2 generations old. A more appropriate comparison would have been between the latest Intel x86 vs the latest POWER 7. I seriously doubt the vmware comparison would have been so "spectacular."

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