Something for every partner in pre-PEX launches, VMware says

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger

SAN FRANCISCO – VMware used the day before its annual Partner Exchange (PEX) partner conference began here to introduce a set of new products, including upgrades to its flagship virtualization offering. With changes also coming to its storage and networking virtualization offerings, the company’s CEO said there’s something new for every one of the 4,000 or so VMware partners on their way to PEX.

The company introduced what it called the biggest upgrade to its vSphere server virtualization platform, moving it to vSphere 6 and beginning to lay the foundation for its long-term plan to allow easy transfer of workloads not only between machines but between data centres and clouds. It also announced the latest version of its vSAN virtual storage offerings, introducing virtual volumes, and debuted the first iteration of its long-awaited OpenStack offering.

“Each one of our announcements will have a different affinity group within our partner base,” CEO Pat Gelinsger said of the announced products.

Of course, vSphere – the product that made the company a househould name, at least in the IT world – cuts across most of the company’s partner groups. In the sixth full release of vSpher, Gelsinger touts more than 650 new features, including improvements in scale and performance. vSphere now supports twice the hosts per cluster and four times the VMs per host. The version also increases the maximum virtual RAM per VM fourfold, an acknowledgement that modern applications demand a much greater memory footprint. With support now up to four TB of virtual RAM per VM, Gelsinger suggested that even the most memory-hungry apps can be sated.

“Essentially, 100 per cent of SAP HANA customers can run everything virtualized with vSphere 6,” he said.

The new version also takes its concept of vMotion, VMware’s technology for moving in-production virtual machines from machine to machine, and extends it beyond the local data centre. With what Gelsinger called “long-distance vMotion,” workloads can be moved “across data centres, towns, states, and even countries” without downtime.

“It offers IT more flexibility in how they manage workloads and DR capabilities,” Gelsinger said. “It allows IT to rethink all aspects of how workloads run.”

The release also introduces support for fault tolerance, with support for up for four vCPUs running “in a fault tolerant way,” the first time VMware has natively supported fault tolerance in vSphere.

The company also introduced Virtual SAN (vSAN) 6.0, a release Gelsinger said was aimed at “simplicity” but still introducing greater capacities and performance. Probably the biggest enhancement in the new release is the introduction of Virtual Volumes (vVols), the ability to recognize storage on third party and external arrays inside the virtual storage pool, and manage it centrally along with the rest of the virtualized storage in the data centre.

“Virtual Volumes completes our software-defined storage vision,” Gelsinger said.

Since its launch nine months ago, the company says it has added more than 1,000 customers, most of which have come to the company through its volume channel partners, whom Gelsinger said have found it “right in the strike zone for extending the vSphere value proposition” they have long built their virtualization practice around.

Monday also saw the launch of VMware’s long-awaited flavor of the OpenStack cloud management stack as a free add-on for all vSphere Enterprise Plus users. Gelsinger described it as “a better way to deploy OpenStack, with a UI that is elegant and familiar” to IT professionals. Although VMware has been involved with OpenStack since its purchase of Nicira, the current release marks the first time the company has “taken this bubbling cauldron of innovation and embraced it with the best ingredients on Earth at the compute, storage, and networking levels,” Gelsinger said.

The introduction of OpenStack should prove a head-turner for the company’s system integrator partners, the chief executive predicted.

Finally, the company outlined plans for its hybrid virtual networking technology, saying it will offer a way to deliver hybrid cloud connectors that allow customers to connect private clouds through the public cloud as an extension of their own private cloud. That announcement follows its introduction two weeks ago of virtual networking into its vCloud Air public cloud through its own NSX software, bringing it network virtualization capabilities to its public cloud for the first time.

“It’s a gateway through the public cloud to have hundreds of virtual networks across a single LAN connection, all seen as an extension of the on-premise data centre, with their own private, secure connection,” Gelsinger said.

Advancements in its virtual networking capabilities will offer new opportunities particularly for service provider partners, he added.

All of the products announced Monday will ship this quarter with the exception of its hybrid networking offerings, which will see a “phased release” across VMware’s product line beginning in the first half of this year, the company said.