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Virtual Data Center OS promotes complete virtualization solutions

VMware partners aren't sure if the company's vision will end the era of the traditional operating system, as CEO Paul Maritz said at VMworld.

LAS VEGAS -- VMware's Virtual Data Center Operating System strategy could mark a dramatic shift in computing, but IT solution providers aren't sure if the market is ready.

The Virtual Data Center Operating System, announced this week at VMworld 2008, adds technologies to the existing VMware infrastructure to create what VMware calls an "internal cloud." It uses improved networking and storage capabilities to connect and manage all virtual machines in an environment, and it is a shot across the bow of Microsoft -- a relative newcomer to virtualization but the reigning king of the operating system market.

"The traditional operating system has all but disappeared," VMware president and CEO Paul Maritz said during his Tuesday morning keynote.

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Developers are building more customized applications and developing less for specific platforms, and virtualization is the only way to facilitate that shift, said Maritz -- who was, ironically, formerly one of Microsoft's top platform (or operating systems) executives.

For value-added resellers and systems integrators, the Virtual Data Center Operating System would mean less focus on selling virtualization point products, said Tim FitzGerald, virtualization practice leader for VMware distributor Avnet.

"The shift from hypervisor to a managed and secure environment is a significant shift," he said. "It's going to become much more about buying a complete solution that fits into a data center."

Most agree that the hypervisor is becoming a commodity and that customers are looking for more complete virtualization offerings. But there's still a long way to go before the end of client-based operating systems, said Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies in Fairfax, Va. -- a solution provider partner of both Microsoft and VMware. That is especially true considering some estimates that say more than 90% of servers are not yet virtualized.

"You still need something to run applications," Sobel said. "Virtualization everywhere is kind of a promise."

Mark Henson, a practice manager for VMware partner ePlus in Herndon, Va., said the Virtual Data Center Operating System can coexist with the traditional OS that Maritz said is disappearing.

"I don't think it's disappearing, but I think there's room for that layer in the data center," Henson said. "It's not out of the realm of possibility that there could be what you'd call an operating system in the data center."

Regardless of whether the market is ready for the Virtual Data Center Operating System, VMware is trying to help partners offer more comprehensive virtualization to their customers. Several distributors, including Avnet, have become VMware Authorized Training Centers, which offer technical and sales training to the channel. And the VMware Alliance Affiliate Initiative -- which welcomed nine new vendors this week -- gives channel partners extra rebates and discounts for selling VMware with other vendors' hardware and software.

"It provides a greater return for partners," FitzGerald said.

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