VMware has encouraged IT managers to break away from a separate-device frame of mind and embrace fully automated data centres that have been "stitched" together. And VMworld Europe 2010 attendees seem to be on board.
Managing everything together [doesn't mean] that everything goes wrong together.
Matt Piercy, VMware's VP of EMEA Northern Region,
During the show, VMware revealed its concept of "sewing" data centre parts together like a patchwork quilt -- including storage, networking and CPU power -- to create a "giant computer."
VMware's Cloud Director is designed to enable this functionality by allowing enterprises to create pools of virtual infrastructure resources, which VMware calls virtual data centres. These VDCs come with their own set of management policies and groups of applications.
VMware cloud brings technical, cultural shift
But this shift to a more automated data centre that enables users to self-provision applications in a cocktail of virtualised private and public clouds involves not only a technical change but also a cultural one.
As IT departments start on the virtualisation journey, they need to consider this transformational shift in how they view their data centres, said Fredrik Sjostedt, VMware's director of product and solution marketing for EMEA.
IT professionals should embrace this new way of thinking, Sjostedt emphasised, and how automation can benefit, not hinder, them by easing the administrative burden when IT resources need replacing or updating, as well as unifying their data centre perspective.
"I'm not interested in what Exchange is doing, for example, but it's a shift from thinking about the data centre as separate systems to thinking about them working and being managed together," he said. "It means the IT professional will learn more skills to manage an automated data centre."
Bringing automation and standards
As IT professionals brace for these seismic shifts in their shops, they have to look toward the benefits of automation and centralised management. Ramnus Valther Jenson, a system administrator at the Technical University of Denmark, said working with a data centre that is managed centrally makes life easier for him.
"It is easier to manage other sites if a data centre is automated and managed centrally," he noted. "Resources are then delegated to the sites for its needs. This is a good model."
Kim Deleuran, the CTO at European hosting provider IT-Gaarden, said he likes the idea of an entire data centre being virtualised and then accessed from one console or interface. But he reiterated a common caveat: It may take time before customers get truly interested in cloud computing.
"This is a great idea, and VMware will probably be the leader in this," he said, "but there are too many bumps in the road at the moment."
'One throat to choke?'
But for IT managers, how to build a cloud architecture begs questions about interoperability and vendor lock-in.
"People think that keeping all your eggs in one basket is a bad thing, but it just means that you know all your eggs really well," said Valther Jenson, who works with only two vendors: IBM and Cisco.
There are too many bumps in the road [for automated data centres] at the moment.
Ramnus Valther Jenson, system administrator at the Technical University of Denmark,
Matt Piercy, the VP of EMEA Northern Region, agreed. "There is a perceived risk that managing everything together means that everything goes wrong together," Piercy said. "But in fact, it just makes things easier to manage."
Piercy cited the EMC, VMware and Cisco coalition as an example of how the one-throat-to-choke model can be an advantage to IT departments.
"When using one stack with only one or two vendors included, you are stuck when there is an upgrade that causes you to have to replace the whole system, as you have a limited amount of people to turn to."
But not all IT shops want to risk vendor lock-in. IT-Gaarden, for example, chooses to work with Compellent, VMware Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. for its infrastructure.
Kayleigh Bateman is the Site Editor of SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.uk. Be sure to check out the rest of our VMworld Europe 2010 conference coverage here.