Private Cloud Wars

It's been a few days since I was deluged with information and announcements at this year's VMworld 2012 conference, but a couple of things have begun to stand out. The first is that virtualization itself has become a commodity. While there was talk about virtualization, and there's the fact that many companies still hadn't virtualized their infrastructure, the primary focus of the VMware keynotes and announcements wasn't virtualization, it was more about the private cloud computing.

At this year's VMworld 2012 conference, that meant the vCloud Suite 5.1. In case you didn't know it, the vCloud Suite 5.1 consists of several components that are designed to help you manage your virtual cloud infrastructure. The base version of vCloud Suite includes vSphere Enterprise Plus, vCloud Director, vCloud Connector, and vCloud Networking and Security.

Apart from licensing, where VMware did away with the infamous vTax, there were no big technical vSphere virtualization announcements. The other big event that transpired during the week was the fact that Microsoft released Windows Server 2012. Not to be left out of what vendors see as the big rush to the cloud, Microsoft billed the Windows Server 2012 version the Cloud OS. To my way of thinking, there's very little cloud about it, other than the vast improvements to the Hyper-V virtualization platform. With the release of Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V has essentially closed the gap with VMware's vSphere. To coin the phase that's been tossed around—it's good enough. Further, today companies seldom have a single virtualization platform. You probably use both virtualization platforms—and most companies already do. The fact the Microsoft includes Hyper-V with Windows 2008, and above, makes it very easy for organization to implement Hyper-V— even organizations using VMware will implement Hyper-V virtualization because it's easy and can save money. A 2011 study by the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) reported that 70 percent of businesses have more than one virtualization platform in place. The virtualization wars are over. Now, it really doesn't matter which virtualization platform you're on.

The second thing that stood out for me is that the fight for the future is going to be the management of your private cloud infrastructure. Before jumping in to this farther, it might be useful to clarify how the private cloud has come to be described. Briefly, the private cloud is essentially a cloud infrastructure that's dedicated solely to your organization. It may run entire on-premise or it may run on one or more hosting providers or it may be split between the two. At this time, it appears that the two main camps of private cloud management belong to VMware and Microsoft.

Today, the private cloud is just a future possibility for the vast majority of businesses. A recent instance poll that we ran on the private cloud asked, "Are you moving toward a private cloud internal infrastructure?”

  • 50% answered not at all
  • 23% percent are considering it
  • 10% definitely plan to
  • 3% are currently testing private cloud platforms
So, while the private cloud is not here today, it's clear that this is the direction that both VMware and Microsoft are headed. Both Microsoft and VMware are looking to establish mindshare and win the inside track. While you may run multiple virtualization platforms, you almost certainly aren't going to go with multiple private cloud management suites. The very nature of the beast is that the suite will at least manage your entire private cloud infrastructure. Most businesses won't need or want two.

While it's still early on, each company has a very different vision of the private cloud and how it should be managed. For VMware, it's about implementing the private cloud in a virtualized datacenter. The vision here—and this is a key point—is that the entire data center is virtualization—not just servers, but storage and networking as well—in what VMware calls the software defined datacenter. For Microsoft, the private cloud management solution is System Center 2012 with Virtual Machine Manager. The Microsoft approach manages both your physical and virtual infrastructure which seems like what companies may need now, but doesn't seem as far reaching as the VMware vision. Certainly, as the private cloud becomes closer to reality, both of these companies will be evolving their solutions and looking to gain the advantage in the private cloud wars.

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