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VMware vCloud partners mixed on enterprises' cloud readiness

While managed hosting providers have signed on to VMware's vCloud as partners, enterprise shops may not be ready for shared, hosted infrastructure?

A key element of cloud computing is its reliance on shared infrastructure. With its vCloud initiative and forthcoming Virtual Datacenter OS (VDC-OS), VMware hopes its software can provide the foundation for myriad future cloud offerings. But among the many managed hosting providers that have signed on as vCloud partners, there's debate about whether enterprise shops are ready to run their environments on shared, multi-tenant VMware infrastructure.

Rackspace Managed Hosting supports VMware environments running on dedicated hardware, and the business is "rocking and rolling," said Emil Sayegh, a general manager at Rackspace. But for cloud computing services running on shared infrastructure, Rackspace directs customers to Mosso, the company's cloud hosting division. Among Mosso's offerings are CloudServers, a virtual private server (VPS) offering based on Xen, and Cloud Sites, a Platform as a Service offering more reminiscent of the Google App Engine.

"VMware is a higher-end offering targeted at higher-end customers," said Sayegh. "VMware on shared hosted infrastructure is not the sweet spot of the market."

Shared hosted infrastructure: Will it take hold?
VMware vCloud partner Savvis Inc. thinks that might be about to change. The latter has launched Savvis Cloud Compute, a new managed hosting service that enables customers to run virtual environments on shared server infrastructure. Savvis Cloud Compute also presents customers with a self-service portal through which they can provision and manage infrastructure.

Savvis' older offering, Virtual Intelligent Hosting , enables customers to host VMware virtual environments only on dedicated server hardware (i.e., equipment that was leased exclusively to them, whereas customers often shared storage and networking equipment, customers). Any changes to the environment were performed by Savvis employees.

The new self-service portal is key to the offering and to enterprises' acceptance of cloud computing in general, said Bryan Doerr, Savvis CTO. They caught a glimpse of self-service through cloud offerings like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), and want the same thing from their enterprise-class hosting providers.

"The degree of control [offered by EC2] is very empowering and our customers have been asking us for a similar model," Doerr said.

T-Systems, another VMware vCloud partner, said it's getting easier to persuade customers to run on shared infrastructure. "Four years ago, convincing customers that they should run on shared infrastructure was a tough sell," said Dr. Gregory Smith, the vice president of technical deal solutions management. "Now, the acceptability of doing that is almost a non-ssue. I tell them 'I'm going to run you on shared infrastructure,' and they go 'OK.'" That's because utility models like T-Systems' Dynamic Compute Platform are almost always cheaper because of shared infrastructure and because they are purchased in a "pure pay-as-you-use model," he said. "Everybody loves that."

Mike Casullo, the CIO at high-speed satellite Internet provider WildBlue, exemplifies this new breed of cloud-friendly IT professional. The company recently signed with Skytap, a cloud provider that provides virtual environments for test and development purposes. For a flat fee of $3,000 per month, WildBlue's test and quality assurance engineers gain access to any number of virtual machines. Compared with maintaining test and development hardware internally, "it's much faster, and it's much cheaper," Casullo reports. In the past, "we've spent millions trying to clone these environments."

Nor does Casullo have any compunction about using the underlying shared infrastructure. "I'm all about Software as a Service [SaaS], outsourcing, colos." In fact, provided Skytap could deliver the right service-level agreement, "most of the things I run in production I would feel comfortable running on Skytap."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Alex Barrett, News Director.

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