VMworld Update: A Look at What's Ahead
Here's a snippet of the news coming out of this week's VMworld conference.
VMworld is just a day old, and it seems that every vendor in the virtualization
space has something to announce. Since my column has been dedicated to solving
problems, I'll highlight the number of initiatives in the virtualization management
space that will change how you deploy and manage virtual machines in the near
future. Major announcements in this area include:
- Embedded hypervisors
- Open Virtual Machine Format (OVF)
- Virtual System Profile
announced its long-rumored embedded hypervisor, named ESX
3i, on Monday. Last week, I blogged
on the impact of embedded hypervisors following the XenSource announcement regarding
its embedded hypervisor.
In short, an embedded hypervisor is a virtualization hypervisor like VMware
ESX Server or XenSource XenExpress that ships on server hardware, such as in
flash memory. This means that no hard disk is required to load a virtualization
platform and may ultimately lead to servers that ship with embedded hypervisors
instead of pre-installed operating systems.
Embedded hypervisors are smaller, with significantly reduced attack footprints,
since they're shipped by an independent hardware vendor (IHV) and, as a result,
only require a limited set of device drivers (to support the hardware shipped
by the IHV) in addition to the core hypervisor code. In Tuesday's keynote, it
was added that the following VMware hardware partners would ship ESX 3i embedded
hypervisors on their platforms: Dell, HP, IBM, Fujitsu Siemens and NEC.
With Microsoft's market presence, I think that it's only a matter of time before
the Windows Server Virtualization service running on Windows Server 2008 Core
ships as an embedded hypervisor.
Virtual Machine Format (OVF) is, in my opinion, the most significant announcement
at VMworld. OVF resulted from a collaboration of all major virtualization platform
vendors, including VMware, Microsoft and XenSource. OVF provides a standard
XML wrapper that can be associated with one or more VMs. Hypervisors that support
OVF will be able to run any virtual machine encapsulated with the OVF wrapper.
For example, a virtual machine created on a VMware platform will be able to
run on a Microsoft virtualization platform that supports OVF. Vendor support
for OVF packaging and reading may be available by as soon as the end of this
Although it was first announced months ago, the Distributed
Management Task Force (DMTF) Virtual System Profile received significant
attention at VMworld. The Virtual System Profile defines a common information
model (CIM)-based interface for managing virtual machines. For you, this means
that a single interface can be used to programmatically manage virtual machines,
regardless of the virtualization platform (VMware, Microsoft, Xen, etc.). In
the long-term, adoption of the CIM standards will result in the availability
of management tools capable of managing and monitoring any virtualization platform.
Virtualization management scripts written by administrators will also have the
capability of performing common tasks across disparate virtualization platforms.
While hosted by VMware, this year's VMworld conference announcements have been
more about the virtualization industry as a whole. The interoperability standards
highlighted at the conference are groundbreaking; it's not every day that all
major vendors in a technology segment get together and agree on standards for
interoperability. So in addition to being able to purchase a server with an
embedded hypervisor, by next year you'll also be able run any VM packaged using
the OVF standard on that hypervisor. Virtualization management and interoperability
have been pain points felt by all of us in recent years. While the prescription
for our virtual pain has been written, we now just have to wait for it to be
Chris Wolf is VMware's CTO, Global Field and Industry.