Virtualization, VMware and Hybrid Sense

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rahul Neel Mani


Virtualization may not be for everybody yet, but a hybrid strategy could suit many. During VMworld 2010, held recently in San Francisco, VMware announced a bevy of new offerings to bolster their product line. Raghu Raguram, Senior VP and General Manager, Virtualization and Cloud Platforms, VMware spoke to Rahul Neel Mani during the event.

Q:What is VMware’s strategy to string together the applications and end-user devices that, you claim, will provide enterprises savings? How will VMware make this work?

A: Historically, we started in the infrastructure space with a focus on making existing data centres better by deploying virtualisation technology.

Today, as we speak to our customers, they are struggling with a lot of technology issues. One of them is on the application front. Application development is still tough. How does one take advantage of the ‘cloud-like’ infrastructure to develop applications is a big question being debated. That’s when VMware started getting into the application platform development space.

There are two parts to this business. One is the framework on which developers write applications and the other is the run-time environment which works best on VMware virtualised infrastructure. This is the first point of synergy.

With the framework, you not only deploy internally but deploy to other clouds as well. This gives customers the freedom of choice. Out first step is to take Windows desktops and run it on the cloud environment that we are building and our second step will take all the applications and make them appear seamless to the users regardless of the device that they use to access those applications.

Q:You are focusing on all the three areas of the cloud viz. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). How are these services going to build up in terms of your research and products?

A: VMware has defined specific areas where we put in our Research and Development investments. At the same time the company constantly looks at acquisitions and partnerships to drive growth. You will see us build more products in the infrastructure  space and expand to other areas.

Similar to our announcement in the security space (vShield End Point) you will see us building our application platform capabilities and end-user computing capabilities.

The common theme across all of these will be management and you can take it as the fourth area. The acquisition of Integrien – a performance analytics solution provider – is in the management space, and will help our customers immensely.

Q:Do you think enterprises can view your offerings as an entire portfolio and not point offerings?

A: This whole portfolio is what we now call as an ‘IT stack’. The basic premise is that the cloud disrupts the IT stack and you need to think of your stack in a fundamentally different way. You need to think of it as a new infrastructure stack, new application platform and new end-user stack. That’s where each of these things fit in.

Within each of these layers, you will have sub categories of your own and that’s where our acquisitions will also fit in.

Q: Do you see customers taking the cost out from their IT infrastructure and reallocating it for rewriting applications for their virtualised infrastructure? If so, how will it happen?

A: It is now proven that if customers virtualise their infrastructure they save anywhere between 30 to 60 percent on their hardware costs and therefore their operating costs comes down drastically. In most cases we have seen customers reallocating these saving to the application development teams so that they can build applications for their business teams.

In today’s conventional IT infrastructure, 70 percent of the IT budget goes into maintenance and a very small percentage remains for investing in new capabilities. In wake of this fact, the more the users virtualise, the more the capability they get to reverse the trend i.e. more resources for innovation and development than maintenance.

Q:So, would these applications be any different than traditional ones?

A: Changes in business applications depend on the nature of business. For example, a lot of applications being written today are for the Web architecture. Secondly, they might use something like Twitter API to send out notifications or they might connect to a SaaS application like So the fundamental business need does not change but what changes is how that application is written and how rich the application can be. We have nothing to do with such applications but we can help CIOs to free their budgets so that they can create such applications and run it on our platform.

Q:Concerns like security and platform stability still loom large. How close do you think are critical business applications to moving on to the cloud?

A: This will again vary from sector to sector and company to company. I shall give you an example here. A US-based Movie Rental company Netflix, which offers movies on the Internet, is moving its entire infrastructure on the Amazon cloud. They do not have SAP, but there is no question on their applications being non-critical. If the cloud service is down, they will not only lose a  lot of business but also their reputation. Netflix could do this because their applications are well suited for the cloud.

Now, let’s take an example of a typical manufacturing company running on SAP with data feeds connected to the mainframes. Very likely this company will never move to the cloud. I gave examples of two extreme scenarios. That’s the reason a hybrid strategy makes sense for many customers.

Q:Would this trend continue in the future and will we see the nature of applications change as the momentum around virtualisation and cloud computing continues to grow?

A: Yes. Look at the Web. Twenty years back, people were writing applications using COBOL. Today we see developers talking more about Java, Ruby on Rails or PHP. That does not mean that COBOL is over but the new open-standards based platforms are becoming more popular.

The same thing will happen with the cloud. For example, if you want to write an application to place an advertisement on Facebook or send a notification on Twitter, the application written will be very different from the manner they are written in Java.

Q:Is Microsoft’s Azure a competition when it comes to the cloud and development of applications?

A: My answer to this would be both yes and no. The development framework of Microsoft does not compete with VMware. But once a developer has built an application they may want to run it on various platforms and these could be competition to Microsoft like our (JV with, on Google App engine, etc. These are alternatives to Azure.

Q:In the end, what’s going to be the momentum for VMware in terms of SaaS offerings?

A: Independent of VMware, SaaS applications are growing rapidly at a rate of 30 per cent year on year. As employees of VMware, we had no SaaS applications till two years back. Today, we use around 15 such applications internally.

SaaS applications are selected by line of business users. For example, our choice of using was made by our sales team and not IT. Our choice of using Success Factors where we conduct our performance reviews was driven by HR. SaaS applications are becoming mainstream. At some point, IT will be called in and said to deal with these applications.

Cross-posted from CTO Forum

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