The Evolution of VMware: Empowering Enterprise Agility With the Private Cloud

The Evolution of VMware: Empowering Enterprise Agility With the Private Cloud

VMware, with its parent company EMC, is now positioned to empower the enterprise with new efficiencies, flexibility and agility.  How did VMware evolve from a niche tech player, to an IT leader which is heading up an industry wide paradigm shift in how IT itself is approached?   

Last week I made the following tweet, quoting VMware CEO Paul Maritz in an InfoWorld article:    

Paul Maritz:”we go from being a …CapEx play to really being an OpEx play to being a ‘here’s how you do IT’ play ”

Here, VMware CEO Paul Maritz breaks down VMware’s evolution into three stages. Let’s take a look at each of them.

VMware as a CapEX play

This is the original benefit of VMware (and virtualization) — reduce capital expenses (CapEx) by running more servers on less hardware.  By using virtualization for consolidation, not only are you reducing servers, but you are reducing power consumption, cooling expenses, datacenter space, switch ports and more.  The power savings alone have been so significant that several utilities are offering discounts for companies that use virtualization.  As reported by, in 2008, NetApp was awarded a $1.4 million rebate from PG&E for virtualization efficiencies and Fortune Data Centers received $900,000 in rebates in 2009.    

This original benefit of virtualization continues to grow today as both hardware and software improvements are leading to even greater consolidation rates.  Chris Wolf at Gartner recently explained:   

“We had one client that was able to justify a complete server hardware refresh because it could upgrade without having to buy any additional VMware server licenses.  They moved from servers with four cores to servers with 12 cores and were able to run more VMs on fewer servers at a significant cost savings.”  

The consolidation benefits to virtualization are very clear and readily accepted. Some organizations stop here on their virtualization journey, but VMware and others are working hard to educate customers that there are many more benefits to be gained.  

VMware as a OpEx Play

For environments that are virtualized, there are additional benefits that can be exploited to reduce Operational Expenses (OpEx). One of the first and simplest examples is provisioning. Utilizing templates it is possible to deploy a new server in just a few minutes as opposed to days. And of course there are solutions available that take this further by enabling lifecycle management, instant lab resets, chargeback and much more.

Of course there is much more than just provisioning. There’s new efficiences with backups, disaster recovery and from my own experiences, using virtualization to move your datacenter. 

The Vblock takes the OpEx play a bit further by integrating servers, storage and networking in a single rack using Cisco, EMC and VMware components that are fully integrated and are designed to work together as one.  IT departments leveraging vBlock would no longer have to spend significant engineering cycles and expenses to get all the components to work and to maintain them going forward.  Companies can now by datacenter infrastructure as a utility — when they need more capacity they can just add another vBlock.  This approach can significantly accelerate execution times and reduce the operational costs of rolling out new infrastructure.  




VMware as a “How to Do IT” play   

Before we get to things like the cloud and SaaS, let’s take a look at how virtualization enables a new approach to managing your applications and infrastructure.   

Imagine that within your virtual infrastructure is a giant computer with rich API’s in the hypervisor that bring about new capabilities.  Paul Martiz explains that “you’ve got to have [a] console for the giant computer…and we’re trying to take all our management tools and pull them together at the infrastructure layer around this notion of a common console or command center for the giant computer.” And of course this common console is vCenter for which there are plugins for everything from security, to high availability, to storage provisioning.   

It’s not just about operational efficiencies now, but all the disparate monitoring and management tools can start to be brought together into a unified management layer, and a hypervisor with the API’s to support it can provide this foundation. We already have virtual Cisco switches that integrate with the hypervisor and more networking capabilities and integrations will be announced this week at VMworld. And here’s a few more examples:   

  • VMware’s AppSpeed product which can monitor applications and infrastructure to detect not only SLA violations but the root cause as well.
  • vCenter Application Discovery Manager can map application dependencies right from vCenter.   
  • vCenter Configuration Manager can help with configuration drift and compliance.   
  • VMware Service Manager can promote ITIL compliance with incident management, change management and more.   

And these are only VMWare products — at VMworld you’ll see many more companies that offer solutions that harness and unify the capabilities of the virtualized datacenter.   In the future we will likely see more API’s implemented within the networking hardware to better faciliate application management within the cloud.

Enterprise Agility   

A few years ago MIT’s Director of Information Systems Research, Peter Weill, co-authored Enterprise Architecture as Strategy which demonstrated how organizations can use a well designed IT architechture as a foundation for profitability and growth. The graphic below shows some of the book’s principles in action:   

With the right IT infrastructure, the enterprise has a foundation from which it can quickly execute on new strategic initiviaties and effectively support them going forward. Virtualization (and cloud computing) are technologies that can be integrated with business models to provide the enterprise with agility to execute quickly and effectively.   

Michael Hugos at CIO Magazine has called this the start of the agile decade. Companies want to be first to market and the first to adopt to market changes and to execute strategic objectives. Michael explains:

IT needs to deliver now because it is so central to everything business does. If CIOs want a seat at the table they need to be seen as the trusted and reliable partner of business. Agile is the best way to do that. It has been happening slowly as teams of developers started using agile on their own. Now their example and their success is driving enterprise adoption.

Virtualization and Cloud Computing can both be used to provide increased agility to data center, and by extension, to the enterprise.

The Private Cloud:  The Revolution Will Be Virtualized

No that’s not the kind of private cloud we are talking about, but sometimes it might as well be given how much confusion abounds surrounding the concept of cloud computing and the private cloud. The private cloud is based on the idea that the data center becomes nimble, flexible and agile by exploiting new models and technologies.  The private cloud does not mean that you have to move your datacenter to the cloud, but rather that you’ve adopted cloud computing concepts within your data center(s).   

Vittorio Viargendo , VP of desktop products for VMware, wrote in Forbes magazine earlier this week about how virtualization is an enabler for cloud computing:   

In a virtualized data center, these tasks [provisioning and load balancing] can be fully automated because of the flexibility of the underlying virtualization layer. Once applications are freed from the underlying hardware and run on the virtualization platform, it is possible to enrich them with new cloud-like capabilities–even if these legacy applications were designed and built years ago. This evolutionary approach is probably one of the most compelling advantages of the virtualization journey….customers who are past the early stage of adoption and are steadily moving their mission-critical applications and database to the virtual environment tell us that both new and legacy applications run better when virtualized.

VMware started with a focus on abstracting resources from the physical layer, but has evolved into a much broader vision of empowering the enterprise to become more agile by adopting and fully leveraging the benefits of virtualization and cloud computing.   

This paradigm shift is still in it’s infancy and it should be an exciting VMworld this week as we learn more about the journey to the private cloud.   


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