VMWare catches cloud fever

LAS VEGAS – VMWare Inc.’s (Nasdaq; VMW) foray into cloud computing could be a gold rush, according to one Canadian analyst who attended the vendor’s major conference here this week.

At the tenth annual VMWorld, held this year at the Ventian conference centre, the company announced its vCloud initiative, comprised of services available from data centre providers or carriers to let companies offload computing tasks.

“We want the flexibility to allow you to have much more freedom of where you pull your computing resources from,” said VMWare’s chief executive officer, Paul Maritz.

“The point is not whether you do it internally or externally,” Maritz said.

“It’s all about flexibility and federation.”

With vCloud, companies would be able to use virtualization to use computing resources both inside and outside their firewalls, the company said. The intent is that when a company’s servers are near capacity, to a point where application response time is too slow, they can use off-site resources from a partner.

“I think there’s a lot of hype about the cloud and everybody wants to make sure they have a position,” said John Sloan, an analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group. “VMWare’s approach is to look at the internal data centre as a cloud, as a utility infrastructure, and say ‘Hey, we can make your internal data centre cloud like, if we could leverage cloud providers then there’s all kinds of potential for moving your stuff from locally to the cloud.”

VMWare’s carrier partners for vCloud include British Telecom, Rackspace, SAVVIS, Sungard, T-Systems and Verizon Business.

“I think that we’re in a gold rush right now – maybe a land rush because I don’t know if there’s any gold there or not,” Sloan said. “Everybody is falling over themselves for their cloud play. I was at Citrix’s analyst meeting last week and they were talking about the cloud.”

In fact, Citrix Systems Inc., a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based thin client and server computing vendor, will probably be VMWare’s primary competitor at the moment, despite Microsoft Corp.’s recent rollout of Hyper-V, Sloan said.

“The short term competition is really from Citrix and Xen,” he said. “What you’re going to see is Hyper V is going to sort of track along with adoption of Windows 2008. It takes about 18 months for a new operating system to really hit the ground running, for a critical mass of data centres to start using it.”

During his address Tuesday to about 10,000 partners, customers, analysts and reporters, Maritz noted cloud computing is a “big fundamental change” in the IT industry.

“In 2008 the big buzzword is cloud,” Maritz said. “Everyone has caught cloud fever. We are moving fund away from a device world to a world that is applications, device- and people-centric.”

One user who attended the conference was Kevin Weeding, IT manager for Jerry Leish, a Los Angeles-based clothing maker. Although he is not using virtualization extensively right now, Weeding is interested in the technology as a means of disaster recovery and providing the same user desktop environment on different devices.

“Disaster recovery is really big for our executives,” Weeding said, adding if his main site in Los Angeles goes down, he wants to be able to get his servers up and running again at remote sites in either Florida or Guatemala “as quickly as possible.”

Weeding is also interested in using virtualization at the client level.

“We’ve run into a big issue with our office space maxing out and really having users sit wherever they can,” Weeding said. “The ability for us to virtualize the desktop both on the Mac side and on the PC side is very important.”

VMWare is trying to meet the needs of users like Weeding with its VClient initiative, which includes VMWare View set of products designed to give users a single view of all their applications and data.

Maritz said in the future, VMWare will be developing virtualization for clients other than desktop computers, and he did a demonstration of virtualization on a smart phone.

“You and your environment and your information do not belong to any particular device,” he said in describing the company’s vision.

VMWorld continues until Thursday.

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