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VMware vSphere 4.1: Advancing the Platform for Cloud Computing

A number of our recent VMware blog posts have focused on the newer VMware technology areas… SpringSource, RabbitMQ, Gemstone, and the partnerships we’re forming to deliver cloud-portable applications. With this blog post, I get to highlight vSphere and vCenter, VMware’s largest engineering investment areas and the very foundation of our broader cloud computing story. Today we are announcing general availability of VMware vSphere 4.1, and I’d like to share a bit more about it from both a technology and an engineering process perspective.

First, the technology… when we launched vSphere 4.0 in May of last year, we highlighted three main themes that are core enablers of cloud computing: Efficiency, Control, and Choice. These are themes that you’ll see us focus on for many years to come, and we’ve made major progress on each of them with vSphere 4.1.

Efficiency: The goal here is to squeeze the most out of your hardware investment and to make management of large, virtualized datacenters simple and scalable. We’ve made major progress on this theme with 4.1. Two areas I particularly like are:

I’m also excited in how we’ve dramatically increased the scalability of almost every component of our product suite. In vSphere 4.0, the engineering team made several major architectural changes designed to help the software scale better. We took some advantage of these in 4.0, but with 4.1, we’ve had a chance to really exploit the new software base. Here’s just a selection of the key scalability improvements:

Those are some pretty big increases to a product that is already fairly scalable!

Control: The focus of this theme is helping IT have complete control over the performance and availability of their applications, something particularly challenging in today’s public clouds. The biggest breakthrough we’re delivering in this area focuses on storage and the ability to guarantee certain levels of bandwidth to a VM, even in a heavily consolidated and multitenant environment. There were some early videos showing off earlier versions of this new Storage IO Control capability. You can read more about it and just try to request guarantees on performance from today’s clouds!

Choice: The last theme is around enabling customer choice… choice as to what applications you run, what hardware you run them on, and, as we move forward, which cloud you run them in. With vSphere 4.1, we continue to increase VM performance, making virtualization a no brainer for even the highest end applications]. We’ve also continued to grow our hardware compatibility list substantially, ensuring that you can leverage your existing investments while having broad choice as to your future hardware purchases. As of this writing, vSphere 4.1 is fully supported with more than 2000 server models and more than 2200 storage array targets. And stay tuned for more news as to how vSphere 4.1 forms the foundation of cloud portability…

This is just a short take on the technology advances. There’s lots more data available here and I’ve also recorded a short video to give more context to the above advances.

As for the engineering process angle, I’m extremely proud of how the team delivered this release. After the launch of vSphere 4.0, we have moved to a “train model” of vSphere and vCenter product releases, targeting more regular (and predictable) releases of the software. This is critical to customers and partners, who are basing a lot of their own products and plans on new vSphere and vCenter offerings. And we plan to keep the trains running on time, so we’re already hard at work on the next two vSphere and vCenter releases where we’ll continue to push forward on efficiency, control, and choice.

And I thought I’d close with a bit tech-y, but great quotation about this release from one of our more than 800 beta-testing customers… “This release has the stability of a ‘dot-1’ release with the advancements of a ‘dot-0’ release”. Indeed!

Happy virtualizing, all!


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