VMware is set to overhaul the way its cloud computing platform handles networking by combining its existing technology with that of Nicira to create a new software-defined networking (SDN) platform.
The firm has also created a new Hybrid Cloud Services business unit and is set to introduce vCloud Hybrid Service, part of a plan to enable VMware customers to seamlessly expand workloads from their datacentre out to a public cloud provider.
Both moves were detailed at a strategic forum, where chief executive Pat Gelsinger outlined VMware's corporate strategy to an audience of investors.
On the networking side, VMware is aiming to completely virtualise the underlying network by combining its existing vCloud Networking and Security product with the network virtualisation technology it gained from the acquisition of Nicira last year.
The resulting VMware NSX, coming sometime in the second half of 2013, will enable VMware customers to completely abstract network services and connections away from the underlying physical infrastructure, enabling these to change as virtual machines are created or moved around the datacentre.
"The main problem in most datacentre deployments is that we can virtualise servers, so you can spin up a new instance in minutes, but the reality is that [customers] have to deal with their networking team to get it correctly configured in the right place in the network," VMware's EMEA chief technologist Joe Baguley told V3.
With many network services such as firewalls already implemented as virtual machines and most traffic in VMware private clouds already handled by virtual switches, NSX will complete the picture, according to Baguley.
"A lot of traffic in datacentres now hardly ever touches the physical infrastructure and is between servers on one host, so physical switches need only connect the physical host machines together and we do everything on top of that," he said.
Consequently, datacentre infrastructure could almost be implemented as one giant flat network, with all the topology and security management implemented by NSX, according to VMware.
Meanwhile, the Hybrid Cloud Services business unit will work with VMware's service provider partners to enable customers to take advantage of public cloud services using the same management and orchestration tools as with their private cloud infrastructure.
In practice, this is likely to involve public clouds built around VMware's vCloud suite and other tools that enterprise customers are already using internally, although VMware has yet to fully detail its plans.
Gartner analyst Chris Wolf warned that the move is essentially a strategy by VMware and its partners to try and restrict user choice regarding on which public cloud services they can "burst" workloads to in order to meet a peak in demand for resources.
"Choice will mean a VMware-hosted offering that in theory will make it easy for customers to move VMware-based workloads in and out of the pubic cloud," he said in a blog post.
The challenge in making such a move is in ensuring that the workload runs and is managed properly in the new environment, which may be based on an entirely different cloud stack to that used internally.
"This is an opportunity where VMware can leverage its management assets both inside the datacentre and in the public cloud to allow customers to redeploy workloads and not have to worry about the infrastructure or management stack," Wolf explained.
In other words, VMware and its partners are trying to make it more convenient for customers to choose them rather than use Amazon Web Services (AWS), currently the largest provider of public cloud services.
VMware said its vCloud Hybrid Service will be available later this year via its existing partner ecosystem.
The Hybrid Cloud Services business unit itself is being overseen by Bill Fathers, former president at cloud services and hosting specialist Savvis.
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