Article

VMware's Greene leads virtualization pack

Matt Stansberry, News Editor
VMware's Diane Greene is at the helm of this year's biggest IT phenomenon. As president of the independent EMC subsidiary, Greene facilitates VMware's business and technical direction. SearchDataCenter.com recently interviewed Greene to discuss her take on 2005 and what she expects for 2006.

VMware has had a lot of success in 2005. What were some of the biggest achievements this year?
Diane Greene: This has been an incredible year for us. We launched Workstation5 and 5.5, which illustrates how we're driving the company forward. We have 64-bit support,

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[Intel's] VT support, multi-core support and SMP support. Then we're also driving the solutions forward. In the case of Workstation, we're doing multiple snapshots, teaming virtual machines, cloning of virtual machines.

We also launched VMTN, the Virtual Machine Technology Network, which offers a broad array of things. It has a virtual machine center that hosts interesting virtual machines that someone might want to use. For example, there's a browser appliance that is a browser pre-installed on Linux that allows a user to safely browse the Web using the isolation of the virtual machine, protecting that computer from spyware or viruses. [VMTN] is also a knowledge base for discussion, test and development, and community groups. It also offers a service where you can test all of [VMware's] products on a subscription basis for $299 per year.

All the major vendors have announced different initiatives around virtualization. So how do you deal with interoperability issues?
Greene: We had an announcement around two initiatives: standards and community source.

Community source is our way of letting our partners participate in the decisions around what goes into our code and making sure they have full compatibility. People can get full access to our source code and get training on it.

Around standards, we're active in [Distributed Management Task Force], and we hope to see virtualization standards for management that the DMTF might not be addressing. We're offering our experience and APIs and some of our code for those standards.

[We're pushing] standards for how to optimize an operating system to run a virtual machine. And we are looking into standards into the format of a virtual machine. A virtual machine is a file; what is the format of that file? Also, we're looking for standards for benchmarking for virtual machines.

How do you see the technology coming together between VMware and the management tools and devices that are tying into virtualization?
Greene: We have an existing SDK out there for managing our virtual machines. IBM Director, HP's virtualization management software, CA's Unicenter and BMC's Patrol all have management software that can manage virtual machines and a host of smaller software companies as well.

One of our first participants in community source, Mellanox, is putting InfiniBand support for ESX Server. We've ported our software to run on [Intel's] VT and [Advanced Micro Devices'] Pacifica and the multi-core offerings, so we're making sure we work with the new offerings out of the chip vendors.

We've also announced support for paravirtualization.

What do you think will happen in 2006?
Greene: What I really see happening is that people are starting to fully appreciate what virtualization is all about. People have thought of it as a partitioning tool for server consolidation. But really, it goes so far beyond that. A lot of the biggest ROI [that] people are seeing is different from server consolidation.

What you see coming out of VMware is a full, distributed virtualization system where you can run clustered machines and load balance transparently between them. You can have automatic failover between virtual machines. You can have backup, management, security auditing and performance monitoring around a centralized groups of virtual machines.

It's changing how people can operate their systems on a whole new level, using the elegant abstraction of virtualization. When you are no longer tied to the physical hardware, you can now revisit all the things we do when we manage our machines and do them in a more powerful, distributed, transparent and autonomic way.

That's what you're going to see in 2006 from VMware and beyond. It's just huge ROI for people because of the constraints that go away once you've deployed those capabilities.

There seems to be a lot of competition now for virtualization technology. What's your take on the playing field at this point?
Greene: You know what I say? Yeah, this is a gigantic market. It's clear everything is going to run virtualized. It's a better way to compute. I think it would be pretty weird if we were still the only player.

Who do you see as your strongest competitors?
Greene: Certainly, Microsoft is out there and coming into the space, and they're always a formidable competitor.

There is also an open source competitor [Xen].

I don't have firsthand experience with the technology, but it's definitely in its early stages. It's an effort that got started fairly recently. A consortium of companies in the industry is developing it. We'll see where it goes. We'll certainly embrace Xen if it gets to a point where it's something our customers want to use. But it's a long way from being in that situation.

What are you doing differently from the competition?
Greene: We're still working as fast as we can to bring things out. This stuff is still on a steep functionality curve. We still see a huge amount of stuff to do and we're actively executing on it.

We've got a very robust, extraordinarily stable platform to run your systems on in ESX Server. We have customers that have now almost two years of continuous running with no downtime whatsoever. One customer I know, a couple months ago, said they'd run 665 days continuously.

We've got that base, and we're adding to the platform.

What is the average data center using the technology for right now?
Greene: We have a lot of customers running over 1,000 virtual machines now. Of our large customers, 25% are standardizing on our virtual infrastructure, using ESX Server to deploy their x86 workloads. Anybody who has experience with it realizes it works and makes things easier and more cost effective to do.

We're starting to see that everybody has initiatives around this. Goldman Sachs does a survey of CIOs every quarter and they ask where they are increasingly putting your software dollars. Four quarters ago, we were No. 5, and for the last three quarters, we've been No. 1 for where people are increasingly putting their dollars.

They're deriving these benefits and they're rolling this stuff out. It's in production across the board.

What are your biggest challenges for the company going forward?
Greene: Growing the company and scaling it has been a lot of work. Keeping up with all of the things we want to do for partners and customers is hard because the number of partners and customers is growing so rapidly. We work really hard to do everything they need from us. That is our No. 1 challenge. As we grow, continuing our pace of high quality products and innovation, which has so far been working well. That's really what we've been focused on. It's a large industry and there is huge opportunity from all kinds of angles. We've been doing nothing but thinking about it for the last eight years and see a lot of different places to go. We're pretty excited about it.


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