VMware’s Application Management Strategy

When we think of VMware, we usually think of vSphere, VMware’s market leading data center virtualization offering. Data center virtualization is infrastructure software, concerned about applications only to the extent that they consist of workloads running inside of guest operating systems or virtual machines. However, there is an entirely different side to VMware, one focused on applications. This focus includes application management, application monitoring, and development platforms for next generation applications. This post will deal with the application management piece.

Application Management in vCloud Automation Center

VMware has renamed the DynamicOps Cloud Suite to VMware vCloud Automation Center (vCAC). vCAC is now VMware’s strategic cloud automation offering, replacing VMware vCloud Director in this role. vCloud Director has been repositioned as cloud infrastructure in the vCloud Suites and is the place where the networking (VXLAN) and security layers of the suite are implemented.

At VMworld in Barcelona, VMware announced the first version of Cloud Automation Center, 5.1. One of the most important new features in version 5.1, Multi-Machine Blueprints, pertains to applications. This feature allows for individual Blueprints that pertain to individual virtual machines to be combined into one Blueprint that covers an entire multi-tier application system. Scaling rules for each tier of the application system can be defined in the Blueprint, as well. This allows an entire multi-tier application system to be managed as one entity. In this way, vCAC has been enhanced with the import ability to provision multi-tier application systems to multiple different virtualization platforms and clouds. This is an important start of an application management strategy for VMware, but not the end of the story.

Multi-Machine Support in vCloud Automation Center (click to expand image)

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vFabric Application Director

While vCAC implements application awareness from the perspective of an Infrastructure-as-a-Service offering, vFabric Application Director goes much further. vFabric Application Director is about managing the actual installation and updating of applications in their respective execution environments, as well as tying the components of the application system together.

The image below demonstrates two critical capabilities of vFabric Application Director. The first is the ability to create an application level Blueprint that understands a cluster of web servers, one or more application servers, and a database server. This understanding includes how these components fit together and how they need to communicate with each other. The second is how Templates, Application Components, and Services can be defined in Application Director and once defined, reused across multiple application Blueprints.

The new release of Application Director contains some important enhancements in the breadth of supported Templates and Services. Support for Windows applications has been added, including support for packaged commercial Windows applications. The breadth of support for commercial applications is limited only to the availability of an installation script for the application. If you have a Powershell, Puppet, or Chef script (or any other script for that matter) that can install your application, then you can import that script into Application Director, surface the variables in the script in the Application Director user interface, and let people use Application Director to manage the automated installation and deployment of your applications.

Supported Applications and Services in vFabric Application Director (click to expand image)


Breadth of Supported Applications

The need to have a script that installs the application leads to one other important innovation in this release of Application Director – an Application Marketplace. The Application Marketplace is a strategy to “crowd-source” application installation scripts and to make scripts developed by one person or organization available to others to reuse. VMware is, in fact, actively working with vendors of commercial off-the-shelf software to produce best practice installation scripts that will then be made available in the Application Marketplace for customers of that application to reuse. This has the potential to significantly benefit the application vendor community by standardizing application installations around some best practices, and to benefit the customers of those applications as consumers of those best practices.

The vFabric Application Director Application Marketplace (click to expand image)


vFabric Application Director Pricing

It is important to note that vFabric Application Director is not just about easing the process of deploying and managing applications on vSphere. It supports Amazon EC2 clouds today and is therefore one of the products at VMware leading the cross-platform, cross-cloud, virtual and physical management strategy at VMware. This is a critical point for those who wonder where VMware’s growth will come from in light of the eventual commoditization of the hypervisor layer and the encroachment of competing hypervisor vendors in VMware’s enterprise accounts. The answer is that VMware intends to sell vCenter Operations, vCloud Automation Center, and vFabric Application Director (as components and as parts of the vCloud Suite) across multiple virtualization platforms, multiple clouds, and both virtual and physical environments.

Assuming 10 VMs per host, you can see from the new pricing below that vFabric Application Director will either end up costing you $2,500 per host or $3,750 per host.

Standalone Pricing for vFabric Application Director (click to expand image)


vFabric Application Director in the vCloud Suite

Your other option as to how to buy vFabric Application Director is to purchase it as a part of the purchase of the vCloud Suite. As you can see from the image below, vFabric Application Director is included in the Enterprise Edition of the vCloud Suite, which is $4,000 per CPU socket more expensive than the Advanced Edition. The two big differences between the two editions are vFabric Application Director and vCloud Automation Center; so, if we take the $4,000 per CPU socket and divide it between the two, we get an imputed price for vFabric Application Director that is $2,000 per CPU socket or $4,000 per physical host which is only a bit more than the $3,750 per host that it would cost you if you had 10 VMs per host.

vFabric Application Director Pricing as a part of the vCloud Suite (click to expand image)

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Summary of VMware Application Management Strategy

With vFabric Application Director, VMware is bringing a whole new level of value—application management, including the life-cycle of custom and purchased applications across physical, virtual, and cloud based environments—to the market and its customers. The willingness to work with application software vendors in the Application Marketplace also represents a ground-breaking change for VMware, a company that had never previously partnered very effectively with other vendors of software.