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Whats in a virtual data center operating system?

Posted on Monday, October 27, 2008 | No Comments

Episode 20 of the VMTN podcast was with Leena Joshi who is the marketing manager for VDC-OS, I think.

Here is my summary of the key points.

  • VMware have come up with the term VDC-OS to describe what it is that they provide in terms of software. How do you describe what ESX, in its various flavors, actually is to a data center? Combine into that all of the features and functions, lets call them vServices, such as HA, DRS, SRM etc, which make it an even larger entity. Well, the answer is that all of these things can be described as a Virtual Data Center - Operating System.
  • VDC-OS is the category of the software which VMware provides which aggregates hardware providing services that are unique, such as availability, security and scalability. This is not a name change for ESX, rather a categorization of what it is. VMware is more than ESX and the solution set is actually more than a hypervisor.
  • Why call it an OS? This is because VMware provide services in a distributed fashion that would otherwise be provided by the server OS.
  • Just as every machine needs an operating system so every data center needs a data center operating system.
  • With VDC-OS you can take many physical machines and turn them into a giant computer. Adding machines in and pulling them out as required. This giant machine can provide many vServices to you workloads. Key is that it provides a unified abstraction layer that does not require modification of any of your existing x86 applications for them to run.
  • This VDC-OS has an expanding API so that you can use it along with these vServices. Vendors can come and expand or enhance the base functionality using these APIs. Am example of this is the new storage API to allow improved snapshoting, so that the storage array can deal at the virtual machine level rather than the LUN level. Another example is being able to plug in a specialist switch from Cisco, the Nexus 1000v to provide great functionality and integration with the physical data center switching. This is not a closed platform; you can choose your vendors for the different components.

I think VMware have done a good job here of creating a collective descriptor for what it is that they do for the data center. It certainly makes the vCloud initiative fall into a better perspective, more on that in a future blog post.

The question that this raises for me thought, as much as I am in support of the ever expanding capabilities of VMware and virtualisation into the data center, is this. If VMware want to be the OS for the data center, what happens to the work loads in the data center that are not virtualized? I know this is stating the obvious but there is currently a lot more in the data center than the VMware environment. Should a VDC-OS manage the storage and the networking as well, rather than just abstracting them once they are setup and plugged in.

Can VMware be the OS for the data center or is it really a new layer between the machine workloads and the resources they use, the RAM, CPU, Storage and Network. It’s a way of building a large grid computer, your own cloud, whilst being able to use your existing systems without change, and giving them all of them these new features and functions wrapped around them (mobility, security, scale, availability). I wonder if they thought of VDC-BIOS as well as OS. In the early days of x86 it was the BIOS that handled the IO (but things have moved on from those early days, but let’s not let reality get in the way of an analogy). Are we looking at the BIOS of a large grid computer rather than an OS? Same thing really, the BIOS is just the boot loader these days. Maybe the hypervisor is the BIOS for the VDC-OS which manages the whole entity or collection.

At the end of the day I think VDC-OS is a great name and one that will make it easier to understand what VMware are doing in terms of a category. The remaining question though is the remaining physical servers and infrastructure. One starts to think about Cisco VFrame and other service orchestration technologies. Are vServices going to need to develop to cover many more areas within the data center?

Today and in the next years VMware is certainly go to be “a” or “one of the” data center operating systems in your environment. Yet if we look into the crystal ball, many workload types which can not be virtualized now should be able to in the future. Once everything is consumed in and a virtual machine, we certainly then may just have “the” Virtual Data Center - Operating System.

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