VMware Unveils vSphere
Company sees "cloudy" future for the data center
Virtualization leader VMware sees a cloudy future for the
data center. To that end, today the company announced vSphere 4, the
next generation of what was formerly called VMware
VMware is touting a number of major enhancements to
its product, including expanded functionality, huge performance gains, and a
new pricing structure that makes vSphere more affordable on the low
"We're calling vSphere a cloud operating system," said Bogomil
Balkansky, VMware senior director of product marketing. vSphere, Balkansky
explained, "Enables companies to build internal clouds." The ultimate aim is
to connect internal clouds with external clouds, building a cloud
infrastructure that smashes traditional computing boundaries.
4, the successor to VMware Infrastructure 3.5 (VI 3.5), includes much
greater capacity per virtual machine (VM). VMware said that each VM in
vSphere can utilize double the number of virtual processors as previously,
2.5 times the number of Network Interface Cards (NICs) and four times more
memory, among other improvements.
Combined with new technologies
like host profiles, distributed virtual switches, and thin provisioning of
storage, Balkansky claimed that for a data center with 100 virtualized hosts,
administrators could save an estimated 25 weeks -- half a year's worth -- of
Balkansky illustrated the potential vSphere
financial savings with hard numbers. When combining 30 percent higher
consolidation ratios, plus 20 percent electric savings, plus 50 percent
savings on storage for 100 virtual hosts, VMware estimates a three-year
savings over VI 3.5 of $2 million.
One of the crown jewels of
vSphere, Balkansky said, is VMware Fault Tolerance, an upgrade over its
current high availability technology. Fault Tolerance, he explained, "Is
much more sophisticated technology than what we have in VI 3. Two different
copies of a VM [are kept] on a primary and secondary machine. If the first
one fails, the second one takes over immediately."
Chris Wolf, a
Burton Group Analyst and Virtualization Review magazine columnist,
said vSphere is a substantial step forward for VMware. "I think they've
raised the bar on features. Early indications are that performance is
substantially improved over VI 3.5. It should allow more applications to be
virtualized and more consolidation."
Another eagerly-awaited product
is VMsafe, an application programming interface (API) that allows
third-party vendors to build security tools that plug easily into vSphere.
"At the top of the list for a lot of people is VMsafe. Organizations are
looking at shared infrastructures, and security is extremely important" in
cloud computing, Wolf said.
Enterprise Strategy Group Analyst Mark
Bowker called vSphere an "evolutionary change. It's their next step from a
product perspective. vSphere is where a lot of that vision gets delivered
and turned into a product."
Bowker said the performance enhancements
could be significant, especially for enterprise settings. "The whole uptake
in performance is important. Typically we see four to five VMs per server.
They'd love to see 15-20 per server."
Another big shift concerns
pricing. Whereas VI 3.5 had three price levels, vSphere has added more
options at the low and high ends to be more competitive with solutions from
companies such as Microsoft and Citrix that tout the lower cost of their
virtualization wares. "We have stretched three price points to six price
points," Balkansky said.
At the lowest end, vSphere Essentials offers
the free ESXi hypervisor and basic management tools for $995 for three
servers. At the high end is Enterprise Plus, which includes all the features
for $3,495 per CPU. Some of the advanced features have moved to the lower
price tier. For example, VMotion, which migrates VMs from one
physical server to another with no downtime, was available at the Enterprise
level in VI 3.5. Now it's available at the less-expensive Advanced
Bowker believes VMware's packaging and pricing is one of the
most important aspects of vSphere. "All those features are interesting, but
the way they've broadened packaging and pricing, going downstream for small
offices and remote offices, and upstream for very mature virtualization
environments" could have the greatest impact over
Wolf said today's announcement puts increased distance
between VMware and the competition. Burton Group has a set of criteria that
judges each virtualization platform vendors' solution, and how
enterprise-ready it is. He said vSphere puts VMware "much, much further
ahead. They have all of our required features and 83 percent of our
preferred features. No one else even comes close to that. The next closest
is in the 40s. VMware still has a substantial lead."
with that assessment. "There's no question that the VMware advantage is the
features and functionality gap between what they can do and what the
competition can do."
Balkansky said vSphere should be available in the
second quarter of this year. He added that the first release will be feature
Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.