Paul Maritz of VMware dropped a bomb on Las Vegas today, introducing their Virtual Datacenter Operating System concept. But is VDC-OS a nuclear strike at the heart of the data center, scattering everyone from Microsoft to Cisco to (big daddy) EMC? Or is it just more hot air, conflating the latest big thing into a mirage of an operating system rather than a real challenger?
It could be big. There is no denying the effect VMware has had on the modern data center – nearly everyone I talk to in the IT industry considers server virtualization a fundamental element of modern infrastructure strategy. And server virtualization has done more for the deployment of enterprise storage and other high availability technologies, than any other movement, from green computing to services-based infrastructure. And it has encompassed these movements, becoming the way, not just a technology.
But is VDC really an OS? And will it conquer the data center? And would this be a good thing? There’s the rub.
First, the obligatory description. Virtual Data Center effectively re-badges lots of things VMware (and the server virtualization industry in general) have been working on as “vServices”. They divide these up into Application vServices, Infrastructure vServices, Cloud vServices, and Management vServices.
These four elements, in fact, do sound like a post-modern definition of an operating system, much more so than Google Chrome. VMware includes the ability to share resources, execute applications, and store data in a managed way. And the cloud component is reminiscent of how the old client/server architecture has evolved into our modern connected world. In this way, VDC really is an operating system for the enterprise data center, and extends it into a cloud beyond those doors.
This is the most compelling and realistic post-datacenter world I have heard of, thoroughly trouncing shared infrastructure, the (Amazon/Google) cloud, SaaS, Java or Linux everywhere, Sun’s containers, and Microsoft’s world of Windows. For the first time, we are talking about an infrastructure that could actually be built, wouldn’t require a forklift (or shipping container) or the migration to an entirely new software environment, and reflects the diversity of modern IT systems.
Certainly, VMware has heavyweights in their corner. Cisco provides the connectivity, EMC provides the storage, Intel provides the CPU, Dell provides the servers, and so on. But it’s not that simple. Like Microsoft, VMware will have to manage the “input” from every networking, storage, CPU, and server provider, not to mention the vast ecosystem of software components. It’s much more like Windows than Macintosh in this respect, with VDC being a loosely-federated OS rather than a closed monoculture.
I predict that how well VMware handles the divergent parties trying to play in their OS will determine the future not just of VDC, but of VMware itself.
Oh, and VMware also introduced View, perhaps the future of the desktop.