VMware delivers template for deploying, modeling cloud apps

IT pros can build cloud app templates using tools like AWS CloudFormation, but VMware hopes they'll consider its new vFabric Application Director.

In the high stakes war for enterprise cloud customers, VMware hopes a new tool for building and deploying cloud templates will cement its position.

When it comes to modeling and deploying cloud applications, enterprise developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) can build templates using Amazon Web Services CloudFormation, IBM Workload Deployer and tools from RightScale, to name a few. VMware, Inc., with its dominance in enterprises that run virtualization, hopes ISVs also consider its vFabric Application Director (VFAD), and eventually distribute those templates on the new VMware Cloud Applications Marketplace.

Developed in-house and first announced in March, vFabric Application Director gives developers a drag-and-drop canvas with which to build reusable application templates that can be deployed either to vSphere, vCloud-based public clouds, and now, with the new version 5.0, to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Support for other cloud platforms is forthcoming, said Shahar Erez, VMware director for cloud applications on-boarding.

Calling all private cloud customers

The ability to deliver pre-configured repeatable cloud templates – "blueprints" in VMware-speak -- of complex server applications appeals to ISVs eyeing VMware's vast enterprise customer base.

This is yet another step that tells us that they are trying to be about much more than the VMware stack.

Ronni Colville, a vice president and analyst at Gartner, Inc.

"What this gives us as a company is a very good private cloud solution," said Kent Mitchell, senior director of product management at Zend Technologies Ltd, the commercial arm of the open source PHP scripting language. Zend used vFabric Application Director to build a template of its Zend Server PHP Web application server that it will offer on the Cloud Applications Marketplace.

In and of itself, access to VMware private clouds is good, but giving customers the option to deploy on a variety of public clouds is even better, said Kavitha Mariappan, Riverbed Technology’s director of product marketing for its Stingray application delivery family, which is also available on the Cloud Application Marketplace.

"Integration with EC2 makes it much more compelling," Mariappan said. "It's not just restricted to the enterprise anymore."

And VMware's public cloud partners use these VFAD application blueprints to deliver more turnkey services and compete against Amazon EC2, said VMware's Erez.

"Service providers are working hard to differentiate themselves from other IaaS vendors," he said. vCloud partners that plan to support VFAD blueprints include BlueLock, iLand, Savvis, NTT America and TechDemocracy.

Application release automation -- plus

Broadly speaking, vFabric Application Developer falls into the bucket of application release automation software, offered by vendors that include  UrbanCode, Nolio and BMC, said Ronni Colville, a vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, Inc.

What VMware brings to the table with its application release automation tool is deep integration with the performance analytics tools in its vCenter Operations Management stack, she said. With it, developers will be able to specify up front how a cloud template should be monitored once it is launched and how to scale it up or down based on resource consumption.

Combined with the EC2 support, this release of vFabric Application Director sends a strong message, Colville said.

"This is yet another step that tells us that they are trying to be about much more than the VMware stack," she said.

To use cloud templates, customers must run VFAD locally, which is included as part of VMware's vCloud Suite 5.1., or a la carte. The vFabric Application Director for Provisioning tool is priced at $6,250 for 25 VMs, and vFabric Application Director for Release Automation costs $9,375 for 25 VMs.

VMware also announced a new version of the VMware vCenter Operations Management Suite, which consists of performance management and monitoring tools derived from Integrien and EMC Ionix. Version 5.6 includes new compliance dashboards, customizable group-based views and application-level monitoring through vFabric Hyperic.

Alex Barrett is senior executive editor for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization media group, with editorial oversight of SearchDataCenter.com, SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchVMware.com.

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