VMware is still the top player in the hypervisor market, but the coming year will see the company move far beyond its original focus of virtualizing x86 servers.
VMware is "no longer a virtualization company," says Forrester analyst Frank Gillett, who adds that VMware's current focus is providing tools that unlock the potential of virtualization, providing greater flexibility in the data center, improved disaster recovery and high availability.
VMware is banking much of its success on a proposed Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS), a forthcoming software platform that will aggregate virtualized servers, storage and network resources into one big computing pool that allocates resources to users and applications.
Full details have not yet been revealed, but VMware promises it will be on the market in 2009. The release will likely be highly anticipated within the industry, as it could help enterprises build more flexible, highly automated networks that are becoming known as "private clouds."
As VMware CEO Paul Maritz argued at the company's annual conference, enterprises are trying to be like Google by turning themselves into hosting providers that can deliver services to customers on demand and in a highly scalable way.
"They think Google has this giant computer they can flexibly deploy applications on top of, and that's what they aspire to achieve," Maritz said.
The Virtual Datacenter Operating System will be composed of several pieces of software, some of which have been made available to customers in a private beta, says Bogomil Balkansky, VMware senior director of product marketing.
VDC-OS will go far beyond the virtualization capabilities on the market today, Balkansky says. In addition to guaranteeing high availability, security and scalability, the data center operating system will abstract CPU, memory, storage and network capacity, aggregating all the elements of the computing fabric into logical resource pools that can then be deployed to virtual machines and applications.
Convincing enterprises that the VDC-OS deserves such a commanding role in the data center will not be an easy task, Gillett says. It also stands to reason that operating system and systems management vendors such as Microsoft, Red Hat and Sun will ultimately offer products along the same lines.