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Opinion: VMware, Cisco say data center OS is on its way

Is a 'data center fabric' in your future?

By John Webster
October 22, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Recently, I took a seat with 11,000 or so attendees in the huge Moscone Center auditorium. I was there for VMworld 2007. As hard rock throbbed and steam rose from the main stage, I sensed tectonic plates shifting.

VMware Inc. President and CEO Diane Green sees a data center operating system coming. I was a bit stunned by that statement because earlier in her presentation she'd emphatically denied that VMware was an operating system. OK, I'll buy the "no OS here" argument for now, but one has to admit that VMware is much more than a hypervisor. And if VMware sees a data center operating system on its road map to the future, then an operating system is what VMware will surely become. Just as surely though, it will be a system unlike any we've seen before.

So, is there a data center fabric in your future? Speaking the next day at this event, Cisco Systems Inc. CEO John Chambers preached the virtues of data center fabric on the horizon. What's that? Recall those early depictions of Ethernet as a cloud. Now imagine a data center cloud populated by servers, storage and Cisco's "intelligent" networking gear, all managed by Cisco and its partners -- starting with VMware. As proof, Chambers ran a demo of Cisco's VFrame provisioning virtual machines under VMware. So adding the data center operating system and the intelligent data center fabric yields "The data center is the computer," I guess. How Scott McNealy-esque is all that?

VMware is without doubt in my mind the hottest IT property on the planet right now, and this event is really about virtualization in all of its incarnations: server, network and storage. Teamed with Cisco's VFrame "platform," VMware could become the first data center operating system, but not before some doors are opened -- starting with the door to the operations manager's office.

John Webster is the principal IT adviser at research firm Illuminata Inc. He is also the author of numerous articles and white papers on a wide range of topics and is the co-author of the book Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence (IBM Press, 2005). Webster can be reached at jwebster@illuminata.com.

Read more about Data Storage in Computerworld's Data Storage Topic Center.



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