Cloud Cover - VMWare's market charge

No sooner did I speculate on who will make a run at providing p-cloud (private cloud) management tools than VMWare comes charging like malcontent bull in a Pamplona ally.

Like Apple before it, VMWare is co-opting a single letter of the alphabet to brand a series of products. Apple owns ‘i’ and VMWare now owns ‘v’. I hereby establish my claim to ‘g’ for everything I create, such as g-confusion and g-discontent.

One of VMWare’s initiatives is vCloud, which is one component of their broader Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS) gestalt. VDC-OS - a clumsy acronym in an otherwise slick acronym flooded market - seeks to virtualize the data center in very broad terms. It already has select virtualization components for CPUs, storage and network and a 2009 roadmap for central management.

What is interesting about their announcement this week is the addition of a security module. Though conceptually there is nothing fancy about their security addition, it is the addition itself which is telling. As I recently mentioned, the winner in the p-cloud space will have to stitch together all the normal IT functions into one tool that allows the total abstraction of the data center - auto-discovery, server classification, network segment management, virtualization, provisioning, monitoring, redundancy, failover, alerting and more. That VMWare has taken on a small aspect of security shows they understand the whole product definition for p-cloud management is incomplete.

It is good that they recognize the problem. I wonder if they foresee the solution.

P-clouds present a perpetual problem with whole product development, namely that nobody can do it on their own. The primary reason the high tech business is rife with alliance that change faster than smoochers at a spin-the-bottle party is that everyone is seeking to create a whole product by getting other companies to provide some part of the total solution. As markets and competitive realities change, so do alliances.

The closest thing to a permanent relationship in Silicon Valley exists between Larry Ellison and his ego. After that the longevity of a press release is the nearest runner-up.

So VMWare faces a problem. To virtualize the data center requires providing in a virtualization management tool all the infrastructure management components that CTO’s have bought over the years from best of breed vendors. VMWare would be certifiably insane to try building VDC-OS by itself. They do not have not can they acquire and rapidly integrate expertise in all the different facets of data center management. They have to partner and open VDC-OS in such a way that other solution providers can port their existing technologies into VMWare’s evolving infrastructure.

Cisco helps. Nobody knows networking like Cisco, and they have tagged with VMWare on some other projects. Since virtualizing the network is part of the whole product definition for p-clouds, VMWare has a head start. Expect partnerships with HP (monitoring ala OpenView), possibly AlarmPoint (alerting) and others. VMWare has already implemented an API to bridge VDC-OS the data center cloud to external clouds, so perhaps the APIs will enable other technologies to aid in managing a p-cloud.

Do not expect a lot of participation from Microsoft and Citrix.

In the oddest alliance since Microsoft and Novel made kissy-face, Redmond has partnered with Citrix to bridge not only Hyper-V and Xen but Citrix’s more capable virtualization management tool. This is a shotgun marriage where two competitors with nothing even close to a whole product are teaming to block VMWare’s inertia. Microsoft and Citrix stand to lose enterprise mindshare if (or perhaps when) VMWare brings true p-clod capabilities to the market.

VMWare has a vision, and at first glance appears to understand that they need to open their architecture to extend it outwardly. As interest in VDC-OC grows, they VMWare will feel the heat to open further - ala Salesforce.com App Exchange - to allow nearly any addition functionality to be added without VMWare having to build it themselves.

Once I see that, I’ll know who will lead … nay, who will own the p-cloud market.

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