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VMware tackles Database as a Service with vFabric Data Director

VMware has plenty of competition in the Database as a Service market, analysts say, but a heterogeneous approach might differentiate its new offering.

With its foray into DaaS, VMware's vFabric Data Director lets DBAs and application admins offer self-service at the application level, instead of the server infrastructure level.

I expect [VMware] to support all the major database players.

Al Hilwa, program director of application development software, IDC

"It's kind of one level up from what vCloud Director is doing," said Mathew Lodge, senior director of cloud services for VMware. "You're abstracting the notion of database and delivering it more as an IT as a Service model."

Data Director will allow the creation of standardized database templates (e.g., small, medium and large) and determine the characteristics of each. There's also a self-service interface for application developers and end users to request databases while having them provisioned, backed up, secured and updated centrally.

In its first release, Data Director will support the PostgreSQL 9 database only, but VMware officials say the plan is to support more popular databases such as Oracle and SQL Server eventually.

The new product is also integrated with VMware's vSphere hypervisor features including Elastic Memory, LinkedClones and HA. It's intended for private cloud use inside the enterprise, both for application development as well as production deployment of databases, but it can also run on VMware's Cloud Foundry Platform as a Service (PaaS) in the public cloud.

New spin on an old concept?
VMware is hardly the first enterprise IT vendor with a Database as a Service (DaaS) offering; there are examples in both the public and private cloud arenas of databases offered as services. Amazon has Oracle-based Relational Database Services (RDS), and Microsoft has SQL Azure in the public cloud, for example.

On the private cloud side, vFabric middleware competes with industry titans including Oracle's Weblogic and IBM's WebSphere; both of these vendors also have integrated centrally provisioned private cloud offerings in Exalogic and pureScale, respectively.

Still, industry experts say the ability to run vFabric Data Director on private as well as public cloud platforms, and its integration with the vSphere hypervisor, could help set it apart.

"Amazon and Google are players in the [public] cloud but they haven't really ventured effectively into … the private cloud, which is where a lot of enterprises are going to experience cloud technologies first," said Al Hilwa, program director of application development software for IDC.

Meanwhile, "VMware knows [it's] new to the middleware space," compared with Oracle and IBM, said Charlotte Dunlap, senior analyst with Current Analysis. "[But it's] approaching it with Cloud Foundry as their big golden ticket. Oracle and IBM have been lacking greatly in outlining a PaaS strategy."

Another wrinkle in the competitive picture emerged just last week, with the announcement of a Postgres as a Service offering from EnterpriseDB, which dubs itself "the Enterprise PostgreSQL Company." This offering, which goes into beta Aug. 31, is also intended for public and private clouds and will have support for Amazon EC2 and Eucalyptus, according to reports.

Support for more databases will be critical
Even though vFabric Data Director slides into a gray area between competitive DaaS offerings in the public and private cloud at this stage of the game, that space won't be open for long, analysts predict.

"Do I think they've got a corner on this market for data access, especially for database? I doubt it," said Dunlap. "If they do, it's not going to be for very long … surely Oracle is going to come up with something similar with their MySQL technology."

The major key to vFabric Data Director's future will be support beyond PostgreSQL, especially for Oracle's database and SQL Server, the analysts agreed.

"I expect [VMware] to support all the major database players, and in fact, to be successful in the enterprise in a serious way, that's exactly what they have to do," Hilwa said.

Check out our full VMworld 2011 conference coverage.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for Write to her at

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