VMware has officially launched the next version of its virtualisation platform, adding storage and network virtualisation features designed to turn corporate datacentres into a single giant resource the company dubs "the software mainframe".
However, the company is also targeting smaller companies, a market it has been perceived as neglecting, with affordable entry-level editions of the new platform.
Due to ship before the end of this quarter, vSphere 4 is the successor to VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) and proclaimed by the company as "the first cloud operating system", but VMware was keen to point out it allows customers to build their own internal cloud based on infrastructure they have already invested in, rather than outsource to external cloud providers.
"Our goal is to eliminate complexity by turning IT into a service that customers can operate at a cost level that suits them," said Matt Piercy, VMware's senior regional director for Northern EMEA.
The major new features in vSphere are vStorage, which provides thin provisioning support; vNetwork Distributed Switch, which virtualises network connections used by virtual machines; Fault Tolerance; and vShield Zones for security.
Perhaps the most significant is Fault Tolerance, which provides high-availability support for any workload, enabling even small companies to ensure continuous availability of key applications.
"You can specify 'I want to protect this VM', and [vSphere] spins up a silent clone that mirrors it exactly. If the server goes down, the linked copy kicks in with no interruption at all," explained VMware marketing director Fredrik Sjostedt.
With vStorage, firms can make more efficient use of their storage through thin provisioning, which means virtual machines can be provided with just enough storage that can grow dynamically. This technology works regardless of the underlying storage, according to VMware.
The vNetwork Distributed Switch "creates a network layer that spans the entire infrastructure," according to Sjostedt, which makes it easier to move virtual machines around and keep their network connections intact.
Cisco has developed a compatible software switch, the Nexus 1000V, that gives administrators a single point of control for all network connections, both physical and virtual, within vSphere.
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