VMware Wants To Erase The Lines Between Datacenter, Cloud, And Edge

The modern enterprise IT environment is a sprawling, widely distributed, multi-tentacled beast that encompasses not only the traditional datacenter but multiple public clouds, private clouds, colocation facilities, telecommunications sites, and the edge. And organizations want to be able to manage all of this in a cohesive manner, viewing it and running it as much as possible as a single entity.

VMware, born in the datacenter well almost two decades ago but more recently aggressively pushing out into the farthest reaches of the IT world, believes it has the pedigree and modern technology – think virtual machines for the former and Kubernetes and containers for the latter – to make that happen, to become the glue that ties an enterprise’s highly decentralized environment together.

At this week’s VMware Explore (nee VMworld), the company is doubling down on these efforts, rolling out the latest generations of both its vSphere platform and vSAN cloud storage offering while improving its multicloud management capabilities through its new Aria technology, expanding cloud networking through such projects as NorthStar and Watch, and helping developers build and manage cloud-native applications through new capabilities in its Tanzu Kubernetes portfolio.

To Mark Lohmeyer, senior vice president and general manager of cloud infrastructure for VMware, this is all about following where organizations are going.

“As our customers increasingly look to adopt multicloud environments across their datacenters, public cloud and edge environments, they really want to have the flexibility to build and run the right application in the right location based on the technical requirements and business requirements they may have,” Lohmeyer said during a talk with journalists, adding that with its VMware Cloud portfolio, the vendor is “enabling our core enterprise-class compute, storage, networking, management capabilities that support the most enterprise grade applications around the world. We’re enabling that as a consistent infrastructure service across not just our customers’ existing datacenters and private cloud environments, but all the major public clouds and edge environments and distributed environments.”

Central to that is vSphere cloud compute platform, which is now in version 8 and now expands the accelerators it supports become GPUs to include data processing units (DPUs) and smartNICs, essentially a programmable accelerator that offload various network, storage and other jobs in increasingly distributed environments from CPUs. Through this, VMware is “unlocking the power of new underlying hardware innovations to supercharge workload performance, supporting vSphere on top of GPUs or data processing units, offloading the core CPU and moving some of those services to the DPU or sometimes a SmartNIC. We’re also supporting the next generation of GPUs that can accelerate AI [and machine learning] workloads and processes, [giving] support for larger scale deployments. It’s really helping accelerate those mission-critical applications.”

The company estimates that offloading workloads to accelerators like GPUs, DPUs and smartNICs can save up to 20 percent of CPU cores while maintaining performance, consolidating workloads and lowering costs. It also can improve the transaction rat by 36 percent and cut latency by 27 percent.

It is part of VMware’s larger two-year-old “Project Monterey,” which is aimed at delivering a consistent platform for decentralized computing environments that leverage DPUs and other accelerators for modern workloads like AI and machine learning. The company is working with such infrastructure vendors as Dell, Lenovo and Hewlett Packard Enterprise as well as chip makers like Nvidia, Intel and AMD, which bought DPU maker Pensando earlier this year for $1.9 billion. This also comes at a time when chip maker Broadcom – which is expanding its portfolio – is bidding to buy VMware for $61 billion.

In addition, VMware has in beta the NSX Distributed Firewall, which also will be offloaded to DPUs, delivering more secure east-west traffic with the need of software agents and enhancing security on the network, which is becoming more important in the increasingly distributed IT scenarios.

VMware also is integrating its Tanzu Kubernetes Grid 2.0 into vSphere 8, offering either a standalone management cluster or a Supervisor flavor integrated into vSphere. Tanzu Kubernetes Grid 2.0 also will continue to support Amazon Web Services AWS and Microsoft Azure and later Google Cloud and Oracle Cloud.

It’s part of VMware’s wider efforts to simplify its Kubernetes and container portfolio to make it easier for developers and others to manage and to more quickly get applications built and deployed.

”Kubernetes is now not just technology, but it’s a mainstay for modern applications,” said Ajay Patel, senior vice president and general manager of VMware’s Modern Apps and Management Business Group. “We think 65 percent of organizations have Kubernetes in production. But the big challenge with Kubernetes is that as powerful as it is, it is not a technology for average developers. It lacks the visibility, the controls and just the skill-set issue we should now have in terms of having the expertise to leverage this technology. The latest study that we did shows that there is a real need for streamlining and automating the deployment and management of Kubernetes at scale in many of the largest organizations.”

VMware is addressing that with new capabilities in its Tanzu Mission Control for Kubernetes management, including enabling direct provisioning and management of Amazon EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service) clusters to simplify management of multiple clusters and clouds. It also will integrate with Aria (formerly vRealize Automation Cloud) for easier consolidation of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and Kubernetes operations, enable cluster management via GitOps, and enable users to move applications between clusters on any cloud or on-premises datacenter through cross-cluster backup and restore.

With vSAN 8, VMware unveiled the vSAN Express Storage Architecture platform to improve performance, efficiency and data protection of vSAN running on modern storage devices and to help drive a four-fold performance increase, 40 percent lower TCO and four times the efficiency of previous versions. It also will deliver the performance of RAID1 and the efficiency of RAID5/6, improved compression and caching for more capacity and lower CPU use and insights via VMware Analytics Cloud.

VMware also is unveiling VMware Cloud Foundation+, a cloud-connected architecture for running a full-stack hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) in datacenters, an effort that mirrors similar initiatives by datacenter infrastructure vendors and public cloud providers to deliver more cloud-like capabilities into on-prem datacenters. It leverages vSphere+ and vSAN+, which were part of Project Arctic and were formally introduced in June to deliver cloud benefits to on-prem infrastructures, including cloud-based management, integrated Kubernetes and a flexible subscription model. Cloud Foundation+ will make it easier to manage VMs and container-based workloads across multicloud deployments and to access cloud services and new features.

In the hyperscale public cloud arena, VMware is expanding what it offers through AWS. For a long time VMware has supported vSAN on VMware Cloud on AWS. Now through VMware Cloud Flex Storage, it is offering a high-performance and highly scalable elastic cloud storage service that leverages AWS S3 for capacity with a caching tier for performance.

“Likewise, we’re also pleased to announce with AWS and our partner NetApp the GA support for AWS FSxN and based on NetApp OnTap technology,” Lohmeyer said. “For customers that are using vSphere on-prem, this is a no-brainer solution for them as they bring those enterprise workloads [and] those enterprise data services from NetApp into the cloud.”

VMware also introduced the technical preview of VMware Cloud Flex Compute, which he said enables the vendor to carve out pools of compute capacity – essentially pools of CPUs and memory – and provide those pools to organizations. This enables enterprises to use these smaller and less expensive bites of compute and then scale as needed, all the while being able to leverage vSphere for running the workloads.

In addition, the company also is expanding what it offers in Azure (cloud support for vRealize Log Insight), Google Cloud (standard support for Tanzu) and Oracle Cloud (Tanzu support and a single-host software-defined datacenter, or SDDC).

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