New VMware products, services target small, medium businesses at VMworld

But VMware is tight-lipped about what it is announcing next week

Businesses with less than 1,000 employees get special attention next week at VMware's VMworld conference in San Francisco where it will introduce products and partnerships to make virtualization friendlier to firms with limited resources.

Those organizations lack the budget, staff and expertise of larger enterprises, says Russ Stockdale, VP and general manager of small and midsize business at VMware, which means they need products that streamline deployment and management of the technology, and do so economically, using skills that may be available in-house.

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He says that SMBs tend to be pragmatic in their purchases because of their resource restrictions, but once they are convinced that virtualization can help, they jump in more fully than larger businesses that might pick and choose where they deploy the technology.

While VMware itself is tight-lipped about what it is announcing, some vendors who are exhibiting at the conference indicate what might be in store.

Startup Simplivity is showing off its recently announced data-center-in-a-box technology called OmniCube for SMBs, and a competitor called Scale Computing is expected to launch its similar product called HC3 that is aimed at smaller businesses.

These companies are starting with a clean slate and piecing together hardware and software in a way that better integrates the storage, virtualization and networking pieces of data centers. Alliances of vendors such as the VCE partnership of VMware, Cisco and EMC; HP and VMware; NetApp and VMware; and IBM PureFlex Systems all pull together the same elements. This makes it simpler to deploy, but doesn't streamline the infrastructure itself.

That's where Simplivity comes in with a single device that includes all or part of the features of WAN optimizers, primary storage devices, backup storage devices, and disaster recovery infrastructure. The company says its gear cuts the cost of data-center infrastructure by a half to two-thirds.

OmniCube supports solid-state drives and flash memory. It can be paired to support high availability.

Details about backup scheduling and where copies of data are kept are set per virtual machine by the virtual machine admin. All data is deduplicated and compressed before it is stored in an OmniCube, conserving storage space and maintaining the data in a form that lends itself to efficient transport over networks.

Scale Computing has already talked about its HC3 devices, but may announce when they are available during VMworld. The company's product differs from Simplivity's in that it shoots for smaller-size customers, and will have a lower starting price by virtue of using KVM for Linux rather than licensing virtualization technology from VMware, says Scale's director of channel and public relations Heidi Monroe Kroft.

Both companies represent what the Taneja Group calls hyper-convergence. In fact that's what the HC stands for in Scales's HC3 product name, Monroe Kroft says. "They've morphed the lines between compute, storage, networking and data protection," says Arun Taneja, founder of the group.

These devices give a virtual machine-centric view of storage and networking, and present VM admins with an interface that executes infrastructure changes based on virtual machine requirements, he says.

This can present a danger to businesses in that granting this broad authorization to VM admins can become a security risk, says Eric Chiu, president of HyTrust, which is making its own announcement at VMworld. "With networking and storage collapsed to one storage layer, it gives lots of power to one administrator," Chiu says. "That means that admin could potentially destroy or have great ramifications on security."

His company is announcing HyTrust 3.0 which adds the ability to require that two authorized staff approve infrastructure changes that could significantly impact operations. When one person wanted to make such a change, he or she would have to get someone from an approvers list to go along with it, he says.

HyTrust 3.0 also supports VCE's Vblock storage bundle. It will integrate with the Cisco and VMware components right away, and integration with the EMC parts will come sometime next year, Chiu says.

Other new products at VMworld include Silver Peak's just-announced Agility technology that focuses on application performance rather than on the underlying efficiency of individual network links. Specifically, Agility integrates Silver Peak's WAN optimization software for virtual machines called VXOA with VMware vCenter management console.

This enables virtualization admins who lack network knowledge to accelerate particular applications in a virtual environment without having to muck around with the underlying network, Silver Peak says. They can accelerate using the vCenter interface they are already familiar with. 

Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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