VMware's Cloud OS Is Compelling, But Closed

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VMware today rolled out its cloud computing operating system software, vSphere 4. The offering brings together VMware’s suite of dynamic virtualization management tools -– including vMotion, Distributed Resource Manager and Distributed Power Management — under one roof, and marks significant improvements in transaction and network performance. The company is also advancing its hybrid cloud initiative via free trials from VMware cloud partners and its new Virtual Appliance Marketplace, and has a slew of partners spanning the IT spectrum.

But all of this functionality comes at a cost.

For starters, users are locked into VMware. vSphere 4 manages only VMware machines, and vCloud supports only VMware-based public clouds. The problem is that many of the largest clouds, including Amazon EC2, use Xen as the hypervisor. Also, many data centers incorporate multiple hypervisors (i.e., VMware, XenServer and Hyper-V), and there are internal cloud and virtualization management solutions that support all three. Some even seamlessly manage physical and virtual machines, while VMware sticks to virtualization. If companies are going to invest large amounts of money in building VMware clouds (vSphere 4 Enterprise Plus, which incorporates all the cloud capabilities, comes in at $3,495 per processor), it will be difficult to justify advancing either cloud or straight virtualization initiatives with outside products.

The question is whether this impressive array of capabilities and partners is worth the apparent VMware lock-in. Cloud computing is as much about flexibility as it is about cost savings, which means using the right tools for the job, regardless of whether they are VMware, or whether they virtualized at all.

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