Cutting the Gordian knot

August 24, 2009 by Michael Zipf

vmware_interview

SAP.info: Dr. Herrod, how can companies benefit from virtualization today?

Herrod: What we really do with virtualization is break tentacles that have been tied from an application to middleware to an operating system and all the way down to hardware. At its most basic level, we sever these unnatural ties so that companies can be more flexible. This pays out in a number of different ways.

Take companies conducting acquisitions, for example. They will go into a data center of the acquiree, convert all of its infrastructure to virtual machines, and bring it over to the new data center. We’ve seen some great customer stories, where the time required to integrate the data centers has gone down to days from what could often be months.

SAP.info: And this helps save money?

Herrod: Absolutely. What we’re really trying to do is transform the costs that go into IT today – much of which is essentially keeping the lights on, keeping the plumbing going – into something that actually lets companies create competitive differentiation. In a typical IT budget, 70% or more goes to things that don’t differentiate a company from another one. What we’re trying to do is help companies use more of their IT budgets for writing new applications that trigger new revenue or better competitive features. It’s not just about saving money, it’s a strategic architecture that lets companies transform more of their investment into making money for the company.

SAP.info: How can SAP customers benefit?

Herrod: I think virtualization gives SAP customers lots of benefits – and so I think it’s been critical that SAP is very active in this field. SAP customers have very large deployments and the service level requirements are very strict in terms of availability and performance. From my perspective, SAP and its customers stand to make huge gains through aggressive virtualization.

SAP.info: What does that mean for companies trying to improve their Green IT balance sheet?

Herrod: From a carbon footprint standpoint, every server that you remove from your data center is the equivalent of taking a car and a half off the highway or planting 55 trees. Another example – if all VMware customers today were to turn on Distributed Power Management, a capability that we have just launched, we estimate we would save enough power in one year to power all of Denmark for 10 days. This shows you just how much of the power used in the world goes toward data centers – and how much more efficient they can be.

SAP.info: You just launched vSphere, which you call the “first cloud operating system for the enterprise.” What do you mean by that?

Herrod: We are trying to provide cloud-like efficiencies and capabilities to the local enterprise, which would enable it to be very efficient and scalable. But the unique thing about vSphere is that it allows customers to leverage external data centers without the compromises that they’re worried about today. One of the main compromises is having to rewrite your applications. Today, if you moved to a software-as-a-service, a Google App engine, or some of the famous clouds, you would have to rewrite your applications. Obviously, customers don’t want to do that.

SAP.info: Are customers ready for virtualization?

Herrod: A big challenge to the broad adoption of virtualization is the culture and organization of a company. We are in a world where we are pulling together network, storage and computing power, and sometimes companies have silos that don’t like to talk to each other as much as they need to. So we spend a lot of time within a company making sure that they work together.

SAP.info: Today there are several deployment options: on premise, on demand, software-as-a-service, cloud computing … . What do you think that the future holds in store?

Herrod: Well, in today’s world we’re seeing a diverse set of very efficient data centers, both on premise and off premise. That’s key to governance and data protection. And it’s really key to keeping innovation going and making sure that we’re getting the best solutions. So I definitely believe in a world with a large number of cloud-like data centers.

What we believe we can do through virtualization is to connect these data centers and allow them to federate in interesting ways, making it easier for them to work together. Actually, we’re already doing this today with disaster recovery. And with our service providers, we’re looking at tying data centers and clouds even more tightly together.

SAP.info: When companies talk about virtualization, they usually think of data centers. But how about virtualizing the desktop?

Herrod: I would say that’s a quiet revolution taking place very rapidly right now, one that allows desktops to be installed to a person, rather than to a device. Devices come and go, but ideally a person stays. So we’re really looking about providing a personalized operating system with all your applications, including things that access your SAP deployments. Our real goal is to have centrally managed desktops that follow compliance policies – while simultaneously making no compromises on the applications or the type of media that you might be using with it. In other words, we would like you to have virtual desktops that allow you to have the best possible user experience.

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