The virtualization leader, VMware, has undergone some significant changes at the top recently. The new CEO is Pat Gelsinger, who was an executive at VMware’s parent company, EMC – though some of you may know him from his lengthy career in senior positions at Intel. His predecessor in the meantime, Paul Maritz, has moved on to become chief strategist at EMC.
What is VMware?
The impact of VMware in the world of data centers is hard to understate. It started with the introduction of its virtualization software. These days the concept may not be one that is unfamiliar to you, and many of you have likely used services running on the technology without even knowing it. At the time of its introduction though, it was a radical shake-up of how we all thought about servers and how to best use them. VMware was either seen as a technological oddity, or as a revolution – depending on who you asked at the time.
Simply put, rather than having a server working at one specific task and often being massively underutilized, the server can be virtually partitioned to run multiple instances of different operating systems and the applications required, all at the same time. The main server resource shared by these virtual machines is the processor, so buying extra processors to run the servers boosts your initial purchase price. The saving comes however from lower running costs in the data center.
VMware made us think differently about the use of hardware in the server room back in 2003, when the startup was bought by EMC for six hundred and thirty five million dollars. Since then it has diversified and grown with what some see as a surprising amount of autonomy from its parent company. Today, the virtualization company accounts for nearly two thirds of the market in its field – a figure in the region of $38 billion dollars.
As a result, they're almost placed to comment on the changes now being adopted across the industry as a whole. The purchasing patterns for server hardware are changing, fuelled in no small part by the role the company has already played over the last decade.
The Virtual Datacenter?
For years, data centers have tended to be filled with highly specialized hardware designed either for networking, security or data storage. The advantages of virtualization, however, have caught up with these practices. The trend, they believe, is now towards what they have dubbed the software-defined data center.
By this they mean that they see an increase in purchases of large servers that can be virtually partitioned with their software to perform these specialized services. In effect, the software itself performs the tasks, without any regard for the specifics of the hardware layer.
Processor manufacturers are, predictably, in favor of this concept of a data center consisting of virtual machines – but then they have a clear financial incentive to do so as they will be in a position to sell their wares in even greater volumes if it continues to grow. For now, virtualization is still seen as just one tool in the box – but if VMware have it their way, it may just become the toolbox itself.