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VMware, Virtualizing Data Center, Looks To Cloud

The vSphere 4 suite is meant to help the enterprise generate an internal cloud of x86 servers, then align it with external clouds.

In an unusual coming out party for the formerly nonhyperbolic VMware, CEO Paul Maritz called VMware's vSphere 4 a "revolutionary" product set that could remake the data center.

In a celebratory outdoor event at VMware's headquarters, Cisco CEO John Chambers, Intel senior VP Pat Gelsinger, and Hewlett-Packard senior VP James Mouton agreed.

The announcement featured not only Silicon Valley's best supporting cast, but also several hundred VMware employees, sitting on blankets on the lawn, watching a big screen and applauding wildly as each computer executive took the stage. Looking at the outdoor crowd, a sober wire service writer said, "Just like Woodstock, but without the drugs."

VMware's unveiling of VMware vSphere 4 could have been a normal product upgrade; basically, vSphere 4 is the renaming and updating of its well established Virtual Infrastructure 3 for managing large sets of virtual machines.

But VMware is trying to make a point. Its virtualization software isn't just about running more than one operating system on a workstation or consolidating groups of servers. VSphere 4 is meant to change balky, isolated systems that underutilize their individual resources into a more efficient and streamlined whole.

Chambers said Cisco is a vSphere implementer: "We switched over 900 applications [to virtual machines] in a single night, and it worked flawlessly."

"We're the pioneer in this space. Even IBM, which claims it invented virtualization, didn't conceive of it as running the data center. … We can provide the platform that turns the data center into a true ecosystem," declared Maritz. VMware's virtualization layer is "building the mainframe of the 21st Century," he said.

The vSphere 4 suite is also meant to help the enterprise generate an internal cloud of x86 servers, then align it with external clouds. IT managers are accustomed to overprovisioning servers by a factor of 10 to ensure they meet peak loads, Maritz said. VMware can change that by provisioning to workload. If requirements spike upward, vSphere can tap unused resources in a private cloud or offload excess workload to an external cloud to meet the peak, he claimed. VSphere's capabilities run beyond most data center's needs at the present time. In its initial iteration, vSphere 4 can manage up to 1,280 virtual machines on 32 servers, or an average 40 VMs per server. Each server may have up to 64 cores, such as eight-way server with eight cores per CPU, for a total of 2,048 cores; each server may host 32 TB of RAM. VSphere 4 can also manage 8,000 network ports and 16 PB of storage.

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