Global cloud provider services a stretch for VMware

VMware vCloud Datacenter Global Connect aims to hook together service providers into a single global cloud.

Connecting multiple cloud computing providers across the globe into a single cloud is the promise of VMware's new vCloud Datacenter Global Connect service. It's a potential boon for large enterprises looking for cloud services in multiple geographies, as long as you're happy with one flavor of cloud -- VMware -- and service providers actually sign up to the program.  

The practicality of picking up multi-gigabyte VMs and moving them around depends a lot on bandwidth availability.

Greg Branch, director of IT architecture, Colt

As of today, Bluelock in North America, Colt in Europe, SingTel in Asia Pacific and SoftBank in Japan have signed on to the scheme. But they haven't created commercial partnerships with each other yet to enable a global service.  

"It's like the early days of global roaming," said Matthew Lodge, senior director of cloud services at VMware. "They have to strike up commercial partnerships with each other, it's not automatic … and one by one, it becomes a mesh of services everywhere," he said. Or so VMware hopes.

Pat O'Day, chief technology officer for Bluelock, a service provider based in Indiana, said the business aspects of enabling a single global contact across different providers will take some ironing out. 

"There's legal issues; we've got to figure out a master service agreement so that no matter where
the service resides the customer pays the same way," he said. "We have different rate cards as our pricing is different in each region and when we talk about a Gig of RAM what does that actually mean? We need to offer a consistent product no matter what region you are in." 

He expects services to be available in the first quarter of 2012 but noted that the technology has been piloted and is ready to go. 

The company's service provider programs have been hit and miss over the past couple of years as VMware figures out what works and what doesn't for hosting companies and telecoms getting into cloud. The vCloud Express program, launched in 2009, barely saw any takers. And those that did join, including Bluelock and Melbourne IT, bowed out citing a lack of compelling features for enterprises. Bluelock has since jumped back in and joined the vCloud Datacenter program, but Melbourne IT has not.  

There are technical challenges to overcome too when using a global cloud service. "The practicality of picking up multi-gigabyte virtual machines (VMs) and moving them around depends a lot on bandwidth availability," said Greg Branch, director of IT architecture with Colt in the U.K. Designing application architectures to be lightweight so you can move them from place to place and keeping databases in-synch become issues for IT shops considering moving workloads across the global, he added.  

On that note, VMware claims it has improved the reliability and transfer speed of moving large VMs over long distances with its vCloud Connector software, a console for viewing and transferring VMs between on-premises vSphere clusters and public vClouds. The auto restart function in vCloud Connector 1.5 resumes the transfer of VMs in the event of a network interruption. VMware was unable to provide any data on the improved transfer rates.  

Alternatively, analysts said IT shops might look for Software as a Service applications in geographies where they need specific capabilities, rather than try to move around applications that are tied to a legacy, three-tier architecture.  

It's like the early days of global roaming. They have to strike up commercial partnerships with each other.

Matthew Lodge, senior director of cloud services, VMware

One new service experts do expect will garner interest is VMware's new disaster recovery offering based on vCenter Site Recovery Manager (SRM) 5. This lets SRM users keep a DR site in the cloud by failing over VMs to a VMware service provider that's deployed SRM 5. So far, providers in the program include FusionStorm, Hosting.com, I-Land and VeriStor. IT shops are required to buy the service first from the provider then launch it through SRM.

VMware claims 5,600 providers in 62 countries have joined its service provider programs, Dell being the latest to sign up, but not all of these are selling services yet and only seven providers have been named under the vCloud Datacenter Services program. This is the most advanced of the programs and is a hybrid cloud service for enterprise IT organizations that require application portability, security controls and management features consistent with moving enterprise IT workloads.  

The vCloud Express program is more basic and is aimed at application developers looking to provision infrastructure on-demand and pay for use by the hour, via credit card. Meanwhile, any service provider selling services based on vSphere and vCloud Director that exposes the vCloud API and supports the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) for image upload and download, automatically gets the vCloud Powered badge.  

VMware has launched vCloud.vmware.com as a central place to find providers that are selling the various vCloud services.

Check out our full VMworld 2011 conference coverage.

Jo Maitland is the Senior Executive Editor of SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact her at jmaitland@techtarget.com.

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