At VMworld last week VMware introduced the vCloud Express service which is to be available through its service partner providers. During the keynote presentation on Tuesday the 1st of September, VMware CEO, Paul Maritz, described vCloud Express as
“targeted at the end of the market where you want very rapid, very inexpensive provisioning, where you can use it for trying things out, light workloads, with the key criteria of time and price”.
What is it?
The launch of vCloud Express came with little detail on its features and functions with many confused as to what type of solution it was. Is it a product, a service, a program or a certification?
vCloud Express is best thought of as a stamp from VMware that a third party providers solution meets a base set of requirements and characteristics. The characteristics which the provider must offer include :
VMware based IaaS – Delivery of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) computing resources as a virtual machine based on VMwares hypervisor technology, vSphere ESX. Customers are to be isolated from each other and provisioning should occur in real time through automation.
Self Service – Users are to be able to signup and manage their offering via a web based self service portal. Typical functions are the manipulation of resources, authentication and security settings. Billing and resource reporting may also be provided.
Internet facing – The service is to be Internet facing and is not for internal or private Cloud..
Billing – The billing of the service must be a utility based pricing model, pay as you go, which can be activated with a simple signup and credit card payment.
Given that a provider meets the base criteria they can be stamped or described as offering a vCloud Express offering. The accreditation gives the consumer the confidence that a particular service meets a minimum standard across the categories but nothing beyond.
It is clear that a goal for VMware is for the solutions to be competitive, especially in terms of price, with the offerings from Amazons EC2 service. Given the time it has taken VMware to start to release its Cloud offerings one wonders if this is a program to provide a stop gap in the market before too many of VMware’s competitors do a land grab in the Cloud market.
What is it not?
vCloud Express is certainly not a play for the Enterprise space, rather as a challenge to the commodity market with low SLAs, feature and support services. There is certainly a demand for this category of offering.
The release should not be confused with the vCloud API which was released publicly at the same time. Service providers who offer vCloud Express may implement a subset of the API to allow orchestration between different vCloud Express providers. Rackspace provided a demonstration of such functionality in the press briefing by deploying resources in another vCloud Express partner from within the Rackspace environment. The wider adoption of this function may take time as authentication, security and integration requirements are matured.
Likewise the release should not be view as the vCloud vision which VMware have been touting since VMworld 2008. vCloud is not expected to be available until 2010 and is targeted at the Enterprise environments with features, scale and federation for that market. Yet vCloud Express is certainly an incubator, especially as integration with a subset of the vCloud API becomes mature.
Importantly, because vCloud Express is not a product there will be differentiation between all of the providers. Each provider will offer a different management portal, different pricing, different services, different support levels. Not all vCloud Express offerings will be equal.
Thoughts for the Enterprise
What are some of the considerations the Enterprise and/or existing VMware customers should have in regards to vCloud Express? Here are some items for consideration.
- Given the inexpensive pricing and pay-as-you-go model, what workloads might be appropriate to migrate to a selected provider? For any transient or peak workloads cost savings may be substantial?
- As vCloud Express is the stamp and not the actual product itself vendor selection will still need to occur. Review of the pricing, service level agreements and a feature analysis will be required. Important consideration should be given to the ease of use and function of the self service portal as well as the type and level of support offered.
- Consider the operational practices and processes that are required within your environment, how will these be performed. Patching, backup, monitoring. Dependant on the use case deployed many process may not be required.
- Being Internet based every packed costs. If the application consumes a large amount of bandwidth to operate the Internet usage costs may become quite large. This leans the appropriate use case towards applications from within the Enterprise which may already be Internet facing (such as messaging or web services) where the cost would be incurred in either implementation. However a cost analysis of bandwidth costs will need to be conducted to compare the current bandwidth costs with the expected new ones. The return on this may be difficult if the existing internal Internet service is bandwidth based, so no savings may be achieved.
Who is providing it?
VMware vCloud Express will be available through many leading service providers including Terremark, BlueLock, Hosting.com, Logica, and Melbourne IT. These service providers launched their beta releases of their services on the day of the announcement. Over the coming months we would expect to see VMware work with further providers. A list of providers may be found on the VMware website at www.vmware.com/vcloudexpress.