VMware’s getting old, get over it!

Sometimes stodgy and stable is good. That is certainly the case for enterprise technology buyers. While the product news out of VMworld 2012 this week wasn’t earth shattering, what the company is doing bears study if you’re an IT person.

Prediction: More cloud confusion ahead

Well into the cloud computing era, the definitions of what constitutes an “open cloud,” and how to select the right technology are still a mystery to potential users. And, consumers are still in the dark when it comes to the concept of cloud.

VMWorld 2012: 5 companies to watch

If you missed VMworld in San Francisco this week, no worries, my colleague Barb Darrow captured the key announcements and general sentiment on what’s up with VMware. This gave me the chance to walk the expo floor and check out other companies doing cool stuff. There were five that stood out, one of which wasn’t on the show floor but holed up nearby at the St. Regis, but bears keeping in mind.

In no particular order:

RiverMeadow offers cloud migration as a service, removing much of the effort, headache and cost of enterprise cloud migration projects. The company’s enCloud service is an automated four-step process that collects, converts, deploys and synchronizes live physical or virtual servers into most cloud stacks. Without these guys it’s a professional services engagement that typically takes months and costs a pretty penny.  RiverMeadow’s customers so far include NaviSite which has migrated several SMBs into its cloud including a law firm that moved its entire IT operation to the cloud. RiverMeadow says it has a POC underway with Savvis and HP’s cloud group and is also in conversations with Rackspace and Amazon Web Services. Specifically, AWS is interested in using RiverMeadow to enable DR as a service, according to RiverMeadow officials. Verizon’s Terremark cloud group is also rumored to be investigating the cloud migration service.

HotLink had swarms of attendees buzzing around its booth and once I saw the demo it was easy to see why. Its Hybrid Express software extends VMware’s vCenter management console to public clouds so users can consolidate, administer and manage all on and off-premise resources in vCenter. The demo was showing Amazon cloud management integrated directly into vCenter. HotLink’s technology abstracts cloud platforms and workloads so vCenter treats them just like vSphere hosts and virtual machines — integrated and managed as a unified pool of resources. For large enterprises that have bet the bank on VMware infrastructure, which is most of them, this is a relief as now they can manage alternative (cheaper) VMs and public cloud resources from vCenter.

Plexxi is working on a proprietary SDN switch and fabric management software that allows data center operators to build and manage a network from the perspective of application workloads. Don’t whatever you do call it Q0S though as the company hates that word, understandably. QoS has a bad rep in networking circles as it’s extremely hard to measure and prove. Plexxi claims it’s fixed that. Instead of a typical fabric that randomly scatters and spreads traffic, Plexxi says its fabric knows what traffic to put on certain paths, isolating it for better throughput. Think qualitative QoS rather than quantitive. The really intriguing part of Plexxi’s story is the interconnect between its switches which uses optical fiber, so latency can be reduced between switches (racks) and capacity can be flexibly added and subtracted based on where it’s needed. Optical fiber is very expensive, so it’ll be interesting to see how the pricing works out for this switch, which doesn’t ship until 2013. And also whether a proprietary SDN switch gets any traction when standards-based Openflow products like Nicira get acquired by VMware for bazillions of dollars.

Atos, the $12 billion IT services company headquartered in France, is getting ready to launch Canopy, a joint venture with EMC and VMware to sell cloud infrastructure in Europe. The venture has been in the works since the beginning of the year but will finally open its doors for business on October 1st.  It’s a smart move by EMC and VMware to get around data protection laws in the European Union which place strict controls on the export of data. If you can’t beat them, join them, which Canopy is doing by providing services at Atos data centers in Europe. Canopy will also offer a platform-as-a-service, private cloud services and an enterprise app store selling standard business apps. For multinationals and European firms looking to get into the cloud but nervous of U.S. cloud providers moving their data out of Europe, Canopy is an interesting option.

Much of the talk at VMworld on the end user computing front focused on the idea of logically separating a device (smartphone, tablet, laptop etc) into two containers, one for work the other for personal stuff which users could “swipe” between with IT able to govern the work side. Security startup, Bromium, thinks this multiple personality approach to securing end points is entirely the wrong way to go as it forces users to change the way they work (which is annoying and usually fails) and also points attackers at exactly the part of the machine they should attack.

Holed up in the St Regis Hotel near VMworld, Bromium demonstrated its technology, which will be generally available mid-September. It’s called “micro-virtualization” and works at the chip level, isolating every session in a “microVM” or safe container, preventing any potentially dangerous software in that session from touching anything else on that machine or network. Users can download apps or open attachments without worrying about unleashing malware on their company. It’s currently only available for PCs with a very specific specification, machines older than 2-3 years can’t be protected, but Bromium will have a version of its vSentry technology available for Macs in 2013 and has tablets and smartphones in its sights. It’s a very cool idea and takes virtualization to a whole new level, quite literally.

Question of the week

What companies caught your eye at VMworld this week and why?

VMworld shows a VMware in flux

Nearly all the news out of VMworld 2012 shows a company in flux. With a new CEO and its core server virtualization market commoditizing, VMware continues to push into new areas — end user computing, open source — where it is not a leader.

VMware to join OpenStack: Now what?

VMware’s decision to join the OpenStack Foundation could be a huge or not-so-huge deal. Some see the move as a way to outflank Citrix, others say VMware’s Nicira, DynamicOps buys signaled a desire to at least appear more open in the era of cloud computing.

Surprise! VMware will join OpenStack

Never say never. VMware is about to join the OpenStack Foundation, a group initially backed by other industry giants as a counterweight to VMware’s server virtualization dominance. Intel and NEC are also on deck to join as Gold OSF members.