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VMware counters Microsoft with its own dynamic vision

With new CEO in tow, VMware showcases its 'virtual data center OS' this week at its annual confab, VMworld.

It has been a tough summer for server virtualization pioneer VMware Inc.

First came an executive shake-up that saw the replacement of long time CEO Diane Greene by industry veteran Paul Maritz. That was quickly followed by a wave of hype when Microsoft released its long-promised Hyper-V hypervisor, and not long after, customers using VMware's ESX hypervisor received a destructive update that required quick fixes.

At VMworld in Las Vegas this week, the company is getting itself back on track by placing its products in a grander context. With the hypervisor wars now in the past, VMware is now discussing what it calls a virtual data center operating system or VDC-OS.

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This OS is a compilation of existing products that promise to fulfill an old idea pitched by IBM, Microsoft and others: a self-healing data center. In this case it's a self-healing virtual one.

"What people want is an infrastructure that adjusts based on set business processes, business SLAs and policies," said Mark Bowker, analyst with consulting firm Enterprise Strategy Group out of Milford, Mass. "That's where [VMware is] heading: having virtualized infrastructure products that take their direction from policies fed into this [virtual ] OS."

It's a shot back at Microsoft's own dynamic data center strategy and cloud computing vision, and one that Bowker said he believes will illuminate the differences between the two vendors.

"There are no new products per se in this offering, but it shows [VMware's] strategic direction and just how deep they can go with their products and virtualization portfolio," he said. "Microsoft can't go as deep."

Under the virtual data center OS comes a set of services, or vServices, that range from service-level management of applications and disk-based backup and recovery for applications to virus detection in virtual machines and hot-adds for virtual CPU, memory and network devices.

VMware is also expected to release more details at the show on its plans for B-hive Networks. VMware acquired the company, which makes software that boosts the performance of virtual applications, in May 2008.

And in light of recent moves made by Microsoft, VMware will most likely also showcase its overall desktop virtualization direction, an area in which Microsoft's is clearly gunning for VMware.

Microsoft and Citrix Systems Inc. said they would release a joint virtual desktop infrastructure [VDI] suite sometime this quarter. The VDI suite will have Citrix XenDesktop 2.1 running on Hyper-V and Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager [VMM]. VMM is due out next month and manages both Microsoft and VMware hypervisors. Microsoft also released its application virtualization technology called App-V 4.5. App-V is based on technology acquired from Softricity.

Experts have said that VMware also needs to articulate a message about how physical and virtual worlds can be managed together, and they anticipate that the company would look to companies with deep system management experience, such as HP or BMC, as partners in this endeavor.

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