How VMware Plans to Control the Cloud

One area where VMware (s vmw) did not disappoint this week is breadth of vision. In just a handful of years, the company has gone from the defacto hypervisor provider to an all-encompassing software infrastructure vendor for virtualization and cloud computing. Even for someone watching the industry, the volume of announcements can be overwhelming.

VMware breaks down the product set into three layers: infrastructure, application platforms and end-user computing. With an eye on understanding specific products, here’s what I saw this week:

Cloud Infrastructure and Management. VMware’s mainstay products — vSphere and vCenter — received plenty of attention at the show, specifically in the hands-on labs. However, what really galvanized the conference was the official release of vCloud. VMware’s entry into providing a complete cloud stack builds on the familiarity corporate data centers and service providers have with the vSphere data center virtualization platform and vCenter management products. This may give VMware a leg up in getting customers to adopt cloud architectures given the familiarity companies have with the underlying products. vCloud provides user portals, catalogs of common virtual machines, and security services for corporations and service providers so they can deliver self-service computing.

In conjunction with the official vCloud release, VMware also announced vCloud Datacenter Services, where service providers such as Verizon (s vz) can deliver the same vCloud environment to corporations. The VMware strategy to empower both the enterprise and service providers with common infrastructure certainly makes sense and could help kick-start mass enterprise cloud adoption.

Also in the infrastructure category is vShield, a suite of virtualization security products that help deliver network services, such as firewalls, within vCloud environments.

Cloud Application Platforms. VMware boosted their Platform-as-a-Service offerings with vFabric, a cloud application platform that leverages the Spring Java development framework and the talent from the SpringSource acquisition. Other tools that have been integrated include the distributed data management layer GemFire from the Gemstone acquisition and the application messaging communications queue acquired with RabbitMQ. VMware has emphasized application portability at this tier and set up partnerships with (s crm) through VMforce and Google (s goog) through AppEngine to allow enterprises to move applications across these platforms.

End-User Computing. VMware also announced a new version of VMware View intended to help manage end-user desktops across a proliferation of devices. VMware View is a big piece of VMware’s attempt to own more of the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) arena, an area we profiled in Virtual Desktops are Hot Again. Another piece of the end-user pie is ThinApp, a technology VMware acquired from ThinStall to help streamline application delivery.

The challenge for VMware now might be how to communicate the breadth and depth of their product portfolio in a way that’s easy to digest and understand. VMware certainly has the arsenal to blanket both the enterprise and service provider segments with comprehensive offerings, but it’s now a much more complex sell than the simple message of server consolidation through hypervisors and virtual machines.

Next year, I anticipate that we’ll see the fruits of VMware’s labors, with enterprise and service provider adopters sharing their experience with the overall community. That will be the ultimate proof of the next stage of VMware’s potential success.

Gary Orenstein is Host of The Cloud Computing Show.