Live from VMworld 2008: Day 2 – VMware Keynote

Second day at VMworld 2008 in Las Vegas.

Today VMware’s CTO, Steve Herrod, will give the opening keynote, introducing the upcoming ESX 4.0. already revealed some of the biggest features coming with this new major release (and some readers unveiled more in the comments).

Yesterday Cisco finally announced its virtual switch for ESX, so Herrod may show it in action today for the first time.

Steve Herrod on stage.

He starts from the new Virtual Data Center OS (VDC-OS) introduced by Paul Maritz yesterday, covering all the layers that makes it.

At the infrastructure layer, the capability to manage the physical hardware (vCompute) will get major improvements compared to what’s available today:

  • 8 virtual CPUs
  • 256GB per VM
  • 40 GB/s network throughput
  • up to 64 nodes per cluster
  • up to 4096 cores to manage
  • full support for Distributed Power Management (DPM), which saves 50% Watts consumption during VMwark benchmarks

The capability to grant available and reliable virtual machines (vStorage) will extend VMFS and Storage VMotion with new features :

  • storage thin provisioning
  • linked clones

The capability to abstract and manage the networking (vNetwork) will get the biggest boost in terms of features:

  • virtual distributed networking (same virtual switching configuration across the virtualization hosts, supporting VMotion)
  • 3rd party virtual switches (Cisco Nexus 1000V is the first)

Now Herrod moves to the Application layer of the VDC-OS.

Here VMware, as announced yesterday, enhance the concept of virtual appliance in the new vApp: a virtual machine that has metadata describing its properties in terms of availability, security and SLA.

Talking about the availability Herrod introduces the much expected Continuous Availability feature that Mendel Rosenblum, the former Chief Scientist, previewed last year at VMworld.

The feature is now called VMware Fault Tolerance but its amazing behavior doesn’t: a VM hosted on a physical machine and protected by FT is copied over the wire (isn’t clear at the moment if this will be supported over WAN) and synchronized on another host on continuous basis, granting no downtime in case of hardware fault.

Demo time: A single right-click in the VirtualCenter 4.0 user interface on any virtual machine activates the Fault Tolerance.
A physical server hosting a VM with a gambling game on it is powered off on stage. Despite that the VM continues to work, as its copy on a secondary host was in sync and ready to take over.

Herrod continues its presentation of the application layer and moves to security capabilities: ESX 4.0 will feature the much expected VMsafe APIs, integrating with the new vNetwork Distributed Switch.
No demo here, and not much more informations.

Herrod now moves to the third key layer of the VDC-OS: the vManagement.

There are big news here: VirtualCenter becomes vCenter and is about to get a number of modules to accomplish almost every task in the virtual infrastructure: orchestration, chargeback, application performance optimization and more.

This last module is called AppSpeed: it controls the performance of a workload and when it goes below a certain SLA) vCenter can automatically provision more instances to address the demand.

More than that, AppSpeed is able to breakdown the different aspects of a virtual workload telling exactly where the performance bottleneck is (network, storage, etc.).
This allows vCenter to suggest what action to take to recover the performance (example: add a new virtual CPU).

Herrod says that VMware is working to make vCenter more available: the server component will run on Linux as virtual appliance (big applause on this one) and the client UI will be available for multiple platforms (an iPhone appears in the slide).

Time to clarify how this new VMware Infrastructure 4 will fit the new cloud computing strategy.

VMware will release vCloud APIs, providing to 3rd parties plugs for image management, user accounts management, chargeback and virtual machines mobility.

On top of that VMware is working with several partners on federation, as announced yesterday, to allow vApps  different clouds implementations compatible and .

Herrod is near the end of his keynote and closes talking about the new vClient initiative (which extends the current VDI approach) and the upcoming VMware View technology.

Here VMware will work on user experience, by co-developing a more efficient remote desktop protocol with Teradici.
More than that, VMware will bring the hypervisor on workstations and taking care of local peripherals (like the GPU) virtualization.

Demo time: Through the new VMware View and its management tool called Composer, a single VM is cloned 25 times (linked clones) with a single script in few seconds (one each 2 seconds).

Now the new Google Chrome browser is pushed to all the just created virtual machines, by just adding it to the original, master VM.

The update propagates to all VMs including one hosted by the new client hypervisor installed on a laptop.
The client hypervisor informs the user inside his VM that a new update is available and requires to reboot the desktop. Once done the new Google Chrome is there.

The demo continues with another task: centrally manage the virtual desktop access.
The Virtual Desktop Manager (VDM) allows to define which security policy to apply to any deployed virtual desktop. Once defined it, the VDM communicates with the client hypervisor and obliges the user to shut down his virtual machine.
Nothing new here: VMware took the features included in its existing product ACE and merged with VDM and the client hypervisor, but the audience seems much impressed.

The session is over. The amount of features announced is remarkable and makes the upcoming VMware Infrastructure 4.0 much ahead of the competition.
VMware FT, vNetwork Distributed Switch (and the Cisco virtual switch), VMsafe and AppSpeed may really justify the investment (as long as VMware doesn’t go too far with the pricing) for many enterprises.

Herrod didn’t provide any timeframe but knows that ESX 4.0 is already in beta 2.
After this preview many companies evaluating other platforms may want to extend their trials and wait to see how they compare to the new VMware offering.

There are many points in the strategy that need clarification anyway: the capabilities that vCenter is getting for example put in serious discussion the current relationship that VMware has with many partners.
Of course they may be able to innovate on top of the new platform (like Citrix does with Microsoft Terminal Services) but the entry cost for doing so will become very high, and many companies may find easier to jump on other bandwagons where the lack of features give them more chances to sell.