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The Next Big "Cloud" Thing: VMWare’s Virtual Platform Stack

AppZero shares the vision of virtual applications but approaches it differently

VMware Virtualization on Ulitzer

VMWare's purchase of SpringSource came as quite a shock to many in the industry. Why?  Because, with this purchase, the Gorilla of Virtualization jumped from below the OS right smack up into application development and the runtime stack.  Now they can deliver a Platform as a Service (Paas) for everyone under the sun .... or, as is more likely, the cloud.

At first glance, you might wonder why VMware would make this move into the application development space: What synergy is there between the below the OS infrastructure and application infrastructure?  Is Microsoft's Hyper-V making such in roads that VMware is compelled to pursue a diversification play in order to complete?

If it's one stop shopping they are looking to offer, okay.  But how many one stop companies can there be?  Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft have been building their one-stop-offerings for decades now. And Google, no matter what they say, has been expanding its reach clearly focused on Microsoft. This gang of 4 one-stop-shopping icons looks like a pretty competitive mountain to climb.

VMSource -- 1+1 = 3
The VMware and SpringSource combination is a story that's bigger than the sum of the parts.  It's 1+1 =3.  Big enough to deserve a new name, so I'll just christen it VMSource.  Let's take a quick look at a post from SpringSource CEO Ron Johnson's Blog get his take on the combination.

[Read Rod Johnson's Blog Post on the SpringSource blog.]

"Working together with VMware we plan on creating a single, integrated, build-run-manage solution for the data center, private clouds, and public clouds. A solution that exploits knowledge of the application structure, and collaboration with middleware and management components, to ensure optimal efficiency and resiliency of the supporting virtual environment at deployment time and during runtime. A solution that will deliver a Platform as a Service (Paas) built around technologies that you already know, which can slash cost and complexity. A solution built around open, portable middleware technologies that can run on traditional Java EE application servers in a conventional data center and on Amazon EC2 and other elastic compute environments as well as on the VMware platform."

It appears that VMSource is really a Paas play. That makes sense.  The market has been consolidating, and each one of the gang of 4 has their own version of a platform stack. A single, integrated solution for reducing complexity -- one that is open and portable for both the "conventional" data center and the cloud?  Who wouldn't want that?   So how will VMSource differ from what the gang of 4 brings to the table?  Let's see what else Ron has to say:

"Combined with VMware's vSphere and other cloud-enabling technologies, we can innovate in frameworks and infrastructure to deliver a joined up experience. SpringSource application frameworks, servers and management software can give the VMware platform eyes and ears throughout the stack, allowing it to apply its uniquely advanced ability to migrate workloads and manage VMs for maximum efficiency and minimal hardware resource cost. SpringSource rapid development frameworks and tooling can provide developers with the ability to move from code to cloud in minutes. All of this with the quality you can expect from both companies, and the ease of use you can depend on from Spring technologies."

Ok here is something I have not heard anywhere else. SpringSource can be the VMware platform's eyes and ears, allowing it to better migrate workloads. Not to mention move "code" to the cloud in minutes.

The Big "M"
Everyone knows that, from a VM prospective, what runs inside it (OS, Applications, Management, etc) is a black box.  VMs have no idea who is using what resources inside the machine to do what.  Workloads are separated from the machines by a little thing called an OS.

Goal one for VMware is to make the OS less and less valuable over time.  And the shorter the time the better.  The best defense here is a good offense.  Hmmm ...this eyes and ears thing could be really important.  In the future, if you have an application based on the VMSource framework, then the application will be able to migrate automatically.

When VMware uses the word "migrate" they do it with a capital "M" and mean it in a big broad way.  They mean moving workloads from one machine, from the data center to the cloud.  VMSource will make moving application workloads from dev to test, to pre-production, to production, to the cloud -- very fast.  And in IT, fast is almost always better. VMSource has the potential to redefine, "Time to Live" setting a new standard for time to value.

The Great Divide(s)
In the world of IT, there are three big categories that are separate but inter related: applications, development infrastructure, and operations management.  Companies usually have their roots dug deeply into one - not all - of these categories.

Application companies such as SAP, Salesforce, Lawson, and Siebel all started in the apps business and did not venture further until they had become a leader in their respective market category.  Development infrastructure companies like BEA, Cognos, Oracle, JBoss, and Tibco all focused on how to build or integrate applications, but stopped short of providing applications themselves.  Likewise, management companies typified by BMC, CA, and Quest clearly focus on keeping operations up, running, and optimized.

The big exception to this industry generalization is the operating system (OS), which spans all segments.  However much the language, tools and tasks may vary across these categories, the OS is a common thread - whether traditional OS (UNIX, Linux, Windows, etc.) or the new virtual OS (VMware, Hyper-V, Xen).

If I build an application in VMSource, then that application will have these great new capabilities and power: seamless mobility from dev to deployment; seamless mobility from enterprise private clouds to external public clouds; and the autonomics to scale up and scale down are the most obvious ones.

Kumbaya with Attitude
What Spring Source brings to the VMware party is virtual application.

A terse definition of virtualization is "a decoupling of layers of computer resources".  VMSource is evolving server virtualization, moving from below the OS to now include virtualization of applications.  The decoupling of an application from the OS frees it from the clutches and limitations of traditional OS-s, opening a world of game-changing possibilities

The first Virtual Platform Stack (VPS) is being assembled right before our very eyes. This stack is decoupled from physical constraints (hardware and OS), separated from department/organizational boundaries with deployment time that approaches zero.

One person can write a couple hundred lines of code on their desktop, QA the application, move the virtual application up to Amazon, have it scale to 100s of machines and move the virtual application to the enterprise to run on a private cloud -- all in one day.  We're talking about elastic greased lightning- moving idea to value in a way that smashes the glass house data center with compelling economics and empowerment.

A VPS is so bold and innovative that it has the potential to unify the worlds of development and operations.  Can you imagine a developer and sys-admin sharing the same tools, the same environment, the same language to actually communicate productively?

I'm not saying that the sys-admin will be writing Groove code to slurp up GPS coordinates from a travel application and create a mash up with Google maps anytime soon.  Nor do I expect developers to line up for late night calls when the VMSource Hyperic management console alert signals an outage.  But in this new world the walls are definitely coming down.  And it's about time.  (This time, the pun has meaning.)

No Waiting - Act Now
At AppZero we share the vision of virtual applications.  In fact, we're completely focused on the eradication of installation and the enablement of mobility for all applications as Virtual Application Appliances Freeing an application from the OS and enabling it to move from the dev sand box to QA, to production to any cloud -- without modification, as fast as the bits can be transported -- is a reality for our customers today. The simplification of development cycle from create to deploy in one step just makes sense.

Where we share the same vision with VMSource, our approaches couldn't be more different.  In the VMSource world you have to write new applications within their framework.  What about all the other programmers in the world that might have proficiency in a different language of choice? What about all the apps that have already been written?  With AppZero you don't have to modify code or join a one-world religion to get this level of application mobility today.

VMSource will first deliver their integrated VPS providing great advantages for those who have joined their PaaS religion.  Of course, there will be screams of lock-in and what about me? that will have VMware open its APIs so companies like AppZero can be the eyes and ears of the application workload for those who want the gain without the pain. I predict that VMSource will then leverage the open source community to ensure that these APIs are available for others.

Once in a while there are events in computing that really change the game.  This is one of them.  I believe that the VMSource movement will join the ranks of relational data base, client/server, the Internet, virtualization, and Cloud Computing.  It will be interesting to see what the gang of 4 do to compete with VPS' 1 + 1 = 3.

More Stories By Greg O'Connor

Greg O'Connor is President & CEO of AppZero. Pioneering the Virtual Application Appliance approach to simplifying application-lifecycle management, he is responsible for translating Appzero's vision into strategic business objectives and financial results.

O'Connor has over 25 years of management and technical experience in the computer industry. He was founder and president of Sonic Software, acquired in 2005 by Progress Software (PRGS). There he grew the company from concept to over $40 million in revenue.

At Sonic, he evangelized and created the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) product category, which is generally accepted today as the foundation for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Follow him on Twitter @gregoryjoconnor.

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