Tuesday, July 29, 2008

VMware Accelerates Cloud with Free ESX

The new CEO of VMware, Paul Maritz, seems to be committed to establishing VMware technology as the basis for emerging compute cloud offerings that enable shared, scalable infrastructure as a service via hypervisor virtualization. With Amazon EC2, the poster child for the successful compute cloud offering, being based upon the competing Xen technology from Citrix, Maritz is losing no time staking claim to other potential providers by meeting the Xen price requirement – zero, zilch, nada, zip. I love it. Low cost drives adoption, and free is as good as it gets when it comes to low cost and adoption.

As the economics of servers tilt more and more toward larger systems with multi-core CPUs, the hypervisor is going to become a requirement for getting value from the newer, larger systems. Developers simply do not write code that scales effectively across lots of CPUs on a single system. The coding trend is toward service oriented architectures that enable functions as small, atomic applications running on one or two CPUs, with multiple units deployed to achieve scalability. Couple the bigger server trend with the SOA trend with the virtualization trend with the cloud trend, and you have a pretty big set of table stakes that VMware does not want to miss. If a hypervisor is a requirement, why not use VMware's hypervisor if it is free?

The only challenge with free in the case of VMware is going to be lack of freedom. Xen currently offers both free price and freedom because of its open source heritage. If I run into a problem with VMware's ESX, my only recourse is to depend on the good will of VMware to fix problems. With Xen, I have the option of fixing my own problem if I am so inclined and capable. It will be interesting to watch the hypervisor choices people make as they build their cloud infrastructures, both internally and for commercial consumption, based upon the successful Amazon EC2 architecture.


At 8:28 PM, Blogger run_dfc said...

To the best of my knowledge, the free ESXi does NOT include a license for VMotion. I'm not privy to the architecture of Amazon's EC2, but as an engineer who has worked on deploying VMware in an enterprise data center, I would not choose to deploy a cloud platform that doesn't support live migration. Both Xen and KVM include live migration for free. So not only is there still the question of VMware not being free as in speech, it still doesn't give you as much free beer as the OSS solutions.

Plus you're still missing VMware's real differentiating factor -- Virtual Center. I don't blame VMware for not giving these things away; they're entitled to do as they please with their products and charge for them as they see fit. But I don't believe a free ESXi will impact commercial cloud computing platforms; it's simply a ploy to get enterprises hooked so they have to buy the "real deal." Hopefully enterprises will see that OSS already offers more features and with projects like oVirt gaining momentum, OSS will have a competitive virtualization management platform as well.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Billy said...

No doubt you are correct on the value of VMware's management capability. I can, however, imagine an architecture where VMware ESX is the server virtualization technology and applications are architected to be totally stateless. In this case, VMotion and other tools are much less valuable. Want to take a physical server out of the pool? Don't move the instances, just start new ones, add them to the load balancer, and then kill the old ones. No doubt this is difficult with databases, but for other elements it is a reasonable, and cheap, architecture. Very similar to the Amazon approach.


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