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VMware to lessen the threat OpenStack poses to its livelyhood

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August 26, 2014

It looks like VMware is feeling the heat that OpenStack poses to its livelyhood and has decided to do something about it by developing its own distribution of the cloud called VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIOS).

OpenStack is often perceived as a direct threat to VMware because the two stacks have a fair amount of overlap. Think of duplication of services in a way.

VMware's argument suggests that “Organizations, particularly enterprises, have found that deploying OpenStack can be time and resource intensive, and that the underlying infrastructure does not always meet their requirements for security, resilience and performance.”

The operations people who do care about those things sometimes rely on VMware to provide the qualities listed above, so by making an OpenStack distribution that is driven by VMware developers gets the best of both worlds.

Details about just what's in VIOS are sketchy, but the information provided to us last night before the VMworld 2014 keynote says it will offer “full integration with VMware administration and management tools, allowing customers to leverage existing VMware expertise to manage and troubleshoot an OpenStack cloud.”

The VMworld keynote will also reveal the likes of vCentre, and VMware's other management tools, now live under a brand called “vRealize Suite”. The suite won't just manage private clouds or hybrid clouds running in VMware's own Air public cloud-- the company says workloads in Amazon Web Services' cloud will also be fair game.

Also on offer will be “Infrastructure services costs, metering and analysis including public cloud rate cards, facilitating optimal workload placement and transparent show/charge back” along with “On-demand delivery of applications and infrastructure services via a service portal/catalog or API and guided by policy.”

Analytics and performance optimization tools are other elements of the suite, along with “an ecosystem of third-party management packs for Microsoft, AWS, Cisco, SAP and more.”

VMware will also reveal “vRealize Air Automation”, a subscription application and infrastructure service.

Another software announcement from the show is NSX 6.1, an update to VMware's network virtualization tool with a headline feature of improved network micro-segmentation.

There's also a new version of VMware's top certification – the VCDX – focussed on network virtualization.

Material we've been provided ahead of the keynote doesn't mention a vSphere update, but does include news of a 5.8 release for vCloud Suite complete with “policy-based provisioning capabilities that will enable customers to add compute, network, security, storage and now disaster recovery services to their applications and infrastructure.”

VIOS is scheduled for the first half of 2015. vRealize Suite will land later in Q3 2014. NSX 6.1 and vCloud Suite 5.8 appear to be available now, according to what we've seen.

In other IT news

For another episode in yet such little time, China is once again taking a nationalist approach on technology, but this time with its own PC and mobile operating systems. And it looks like the project has been planned for a while.

The state-controlled Xinhua News Agency reported the announcement late yesterday, citing U.S. surveillance as one of the reasons Chinese engineers are developing their own operating system for desktop computers and mobile devices.

The new software would compete directly with Microsoft's Windows and Google's Android OSs. And it would be available to China's consumers and government personnel alike.

The operating system is slated for release in October, Xinhua reported. The project is being completed by an alliance of various developers operating under the guidance of Guangnan Ni, who co-founded Chinese computer maker Lenovo in 1984.

He remains one of the top figures in the country's technology scene. Ni told Xinhua that the Chinese government should lead the project going forward.

He noted that software developers in China have been building their operating systems on top of Google's Android platform instead of starting from scratch, and that the government could help move them to the new Chinese operating system.

To be sure, the Chinese government has complete and total control of the country's software market, and this is the latest sign that authorities are seriously going domestic on technology.

When Microsoft ended support for Windows XP on April 8 of this year, it left nearly three-quarters of Chinese computers at risk of bugs and malware. China's government was angry that Microsoft would let them down and promised that it would look at all its options.

China then took the unusual step of blacklisting Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 8, banning it from all government computers.

The Chinese news agency named Microsoft's "monopoly" as one reason for bringing production domestic rather than upgrading government computers to Windows 8.

But it also cited U.S. spying as a reason for backing its own operating system, suggesting that the Chinese government is worried the U.S. National Security Agency might be inserting backdoors into U.S.-made software like Windows and Android, something that the U.S. has been worried sick about from Chinese networking firm Huawei.

In other IT news

Some industry observers are now saying that the ARM processor architecture will graduate to production servers soon.

However, before ARM servers can ship in any significant volume, a standardized hardware platform that specifically targets the data center is an absolute requisite.

At least that's the view of chief ARM architect for enterprise Linux vendor Red Hat, who addressed the topic during a session at the LinuxCon 2014 conference in Chicago last Thursday.

Red Hat and several others – most notably the Linaro consortium, of which Red Hat is also a member – have been working on getting Linux ready for ARM servers, and vice versa, for several years.

But according to Masters, one specific challenge has been convincing hardware vendors that what has worked for ARM on mobile devices won't work for the data center, since those are two very different environments.

"A lot of early servers – not just in the ARM case but with other architectures – were built using what I call an embedded mindset," Masters said. "So they continue what I affectionately call the embedded zoo, which is really applying the design philosophy that you take with a mobile phone and applying that to a server."

It's not that Masters sees anything wrong with how phone vendors have been building their devices. He does admit however that the embedded design philosophy has served Apple and the various Android mobile-makers extremely well.

But these efforts have been successful in large part because smartphone vendors build their hardware so that the software is welded to the hardware as a fully integrated system.

Whether they use an off-the-shelf ARM system-on-chip (SoC) component or they create their own – as Apple and Samsung have both done – each device they produce typically contains numerous software adaptations for its own, very specific hardware. And that what's important here.

The concept of highly integrated, power-conserving SoCs can also be a huge boon to the data center, Masters said. But having each chipmaker design its SoCs to totally different specifications, the way they do for the embedded market, is just no good for servers.

"To be sure, general purpose computing platforms differ a lot from embedded systems," he explained. "Software does not ship with the hardware. They're not welded together. People buy hardware from their vendor of choice, and then they get their operating system from their vendor of choice, and they need that to work as a complete system."

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"If I've got 20 different possibilities for wiring up a serial port on a server, there's a problem," says Masters.

"We're not just talking about choosing between Linux and some other operating system here, either. When today's IT system admins buy a server, they also expect to be able to wipe whatever Linux distribution it came with and install another one of their choice-- something they are familiar with. Yet with ARM SoCs designed for the embedded market, there's no such guarantee," he added.

"There's no standard that tells you, for example, 'Here's exactly how the system is going to boot, here's how you're going to find the kernel', etc, etc," Masters said. "Not 'on this board go here and on that board go there,' but 'here's one way to do it.' There isn't that in some of these embedded technologies."

Masters simply doesn't believe that the software solutions developed for the embedded market – like the Device Tree and the U-Boot universal bootloader – are the right way to go for servers, either.

They simply don't provide enough abstraction above the hardware to allow system admins and IT managers to treat ARM servers interchangeably, the way they do their existing x86 systems.

"What we need instead are standardized hardware devices. In order to boot the system that we're using, we have to have a certain level of standards, going in. If for example I've got 20 different possibilities for wiring up a serial port on a server, there's a problem," Masters said.

In other IT news

Market research firm IDC suggests that software-defined networking (SDN) could generate $8 billion in revenue in 2018, an increase over the $960 million it will account for this year. IDC says the $8 billion will come as businesses buy more converged infrastructure.

To be sure, selling $8 billion of anything is impressive, but as SDN is potentially destructive it is worth exploring what that big pile of cash will mean in the context of the wider networking market.

IDC has put its name to a $50.15 billion number for networking equipment sales in 2018, taking into account ethernet switches, routers, WLAN, WAN, enterprise video and telepresence systems, plus fibre channel and InfiniBand technology.

Sales of those categories of equipment will increase from $42.5 billion in 2014, so will actually grow faster than SDN in dollar terms but much slower in terms of annual growth rates.

It's harder to say if networking gear are less of a thing any more, because sales in the years leading up to 2013 weren't exactly buoyant due bleak global economic conditions.

Source: VMware.

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