“A historic building for a historic launch,” was what Jörg Hesske, VMware’s country manager for Germany, said of the event’s location: the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich. After all, this is the most important release in the history of the company, he claimed.
All eyes were on VMware vSphere 5, the new version of VMware’s virtualization and cloud computing platform, which promises virtual machines (VMs) that are up to four times more powerful than with the previous version. In addition to vSphere 5 – which forms the basis of the cloud infrastructure suite – three updates were presented that are also part of the suite: VMware vShield 5, vCenter Site Recovery Manager 5, and vCloud Director 1.5.
What’s more, VMware also caters to the needs of small businesses and midsize companies. VMware vSphere Storage Appliance converts internal mass memory from servers into storage pools, avoiding the need to use shared storage hardware. All the products that were shown are slated to become available in Q3 2011.
SAP.info was there and tuned into the keynote, press conference, and presentations. We also learned why there’s nothing in the way of SAP virtualization.
Keynote: The Cloud Needs Virtualization
At the VMware Forum 2011, Jörg Hesske and Martin Niemer, director of SMB solution marketing, guided the visitors through the keynote and press conference. Hesske stated his belief that virtualization in the business world has made great progress, so focus must now shift to the cloud to achieve the goal of “end-user computing.”
And this means a virtualization platform is a must for a cloud. According to a survey among CIOs, although 15% of workloads are in public clouds, the demand for using software as a service (SaaS) and for outsourcing functions is rising. But the trend is moving away from long-term outsourcing contracts toward more flexible arrangements based on service level agreements (SLAs).
Niemer stressed the significance of providing a virtual infrastructure for applications. Customers own more and more non-desktop devices and want ease of use regardless of the operating system. This expectation derives from their private use of SaaS such as Google, Facebook, or Dropbox. Frameworks for developing applications are therefore increasingly independent of operating systems and – in some cases – also of data centers.
That’s why Niemer believes some things are imperative, such as efficient server utilization, availability of the applications, alignment with company needs, and flexible SLAs. In addition, a standardized infrastructure must ensure interoperability between the private and the public cloud. With its new releases, VMware seeks to satisfy these expectations.
The Virtual Flagship: vSphere 5
Two things are immediately striking with the vSphere 5: a new license model based on vRam and virtual machines that are up to four times more powerful. Now, you can have 32 virtual CPUs, up to one TB main memory, and over one million I/O operations per second. As a result, the solution is also suitable for computing-intensive SAP databases. Resource administration, server provision, and storage management work according to a “set it and forget it” principle: The customer defines policies for VMs and applications, while vSphere automatically selects and monitors the data centers based on the SLAs. New functions include autodeploy, profile-driven storage, and storage DRS.
Licensing is no longer restricted by physical components such as CPU cores or RAM per server, but takes place according to actual resource use. Licenses continue to apply per CPU, although the basis is now vRam, which is used as a pool. The right of use isn’t limited to an individual server, but rather applies to all of the virtual main memory, which is freely distributed across the VMs. vRam is available in three versions: standard, enterprise, and enterprise plus. With this concept, VMware transfers pooling – which is typical for cloud computing – from the technical to the business level in the form of licenses, Niemer explained.
Erwin Breneis, team leader for channel system engineering, added that, starting Q3 2011, a Web-based version of vSphere 5 will also be available. Customers will access the infrastructure using their browser, regardless of platform, and without the need for installing a special Web client. DB2 and Oracle databases can be used as external databases, and the solution is set to be enabled for SQL in the future. Oracle Database Express Edition is delivered with the product.
vSphere Storage Appliance was presented with small businesses and midsize companies in mind. Tailored to the needs of this target group, the model comprises three physical servers that can be used jointly. SLAs are tiered according to security and availability criteria and offered as gold, silver, or bronze.
As with its “big brother,” smart policy management and automated deployment are available. The internal mass memory is transformed into a jointly used storage pool.
Both speakers agreed that, for a secure private cloud, vSphere should be enhanced with components such as vCenter Site Recovery Manager, vCloud Director, vShield, and vCenter Operations.
vCenter Site Recovery Manager 5
The Recovery Manager increases availability through script automation and helps with system recovery. In the new release, disaster recovery has been extended to include replication options and failback functions. Memory-based replication products from partner companies can also be implemented. Storage can be configured in the main system and the back-end system. Users will also find new automatic migration functions. According to VMware, the new version protects twice the number of applications for the same price.
vCloud Director 1.5
vCloud Director provides infrastructure services on internal and external systems in line with a self-service principle. It’s now possible to create linked clones, making server provision faster than ever – and less than five seconds. This means companies can save up to 60% of their storage costs.
vShield is a software-based security model for virtualization and cloud environments. Depending on the requirements of data security, monitoring, and compliance, different security zones are created that are separate from one another and prevent data from being exchanged. If data or applications are moved to the public cloud – or if they are shifted between virtual systems – vShield automatically adjusts the environments in line with the security regulations.
A new tool, Data Discovery, checks for sensitive data on VMs, identifies it, and categorizes it in security zones that meet compliance requirements. In his presentation “2011 – The Year of Changed Security Models,” Christian Liebner, solution architect at VMware, explained where security models go wrong: Because VMs are behind the firewall, data transfer there isn’t taken into account. vShield 5 scans this traffic at hypervisor level and makes it detectable. For additional security, companies can also add physical security concepts from third-party providers through the VM interface.
vCenter Operations might not have any new features, but it is nevertheless a sensible purchase. It is responsible for operations management, and its analysis techniques and an integrated method help with performance, capacity, and configuration management. In such a way, service levels, efficient use of resources, and configuration compliance are ensured for virtual and cloud environments. In a presentation about IT as a service, Heiko Hirschler from VMware demonstrated – among other things – how the dashboard of the enterprise version works as an early warning system and displays sources of errors.
The Time Is Ripe for SAP Virtualization
The speakers at the forum all agreed that VMware’s virtualization solutions are ready for SAP applications. Jörg Hesske pointed out that the trend is toward x86 and away from UNIX. Around 99% of the SAP applications virtualized with x86 are from VMware, and 38% of these SAP customers run fully virtualized IT solutions.
Martin Niemer added that almost half of all applications already run in virtual environments and among them is an increasing number of complex tier-one applications. Christopher Reisbeck, manager for SAP market development at VMware, even claimed that 99% of all SAP systems could be virtualized.
Compared with 10,000 SAPS (SAP Application Performance Standards) with the previous version, 35,000 SAPS isn’t unrealistic with vSphere 5. However, because SAP only tests software that has been released, benchmark testing has yet to be performed. Complex SAP databases wouldn’t be a hurdle. And Reisbeck also stated his conviction that x86 will dominate the future of SAP applications, especially since SAP HANA runs on this technology only.
Example: SAP Project C³
As an example, Reisbeck and Michael Jilg, business development manager at SAP, presented the project SAP Corporate Compute Cloud (C³). In the role of the customer for a change, SAP is pushing the use of virtualization technology so that it can offer its own customers and employees infrastructure as a service (IaaS) on a large scale.
The project kicked off in the last quarter of 2009 and the number of virtual servers currently stands at 53%. By 2012, the figure is slated to shoot to 80%. To reach this goal, processes and service and business models need to be adapted to the cloud concept, and the virtual environment needs to be managed automatically. The scale of the project makes clear what virtualization can achieve:
Today, SAP owns 19,000 VMs, and one virtual CPU can cope with 1,700 SAPS. In total, 2,500,000 e-mails are sent, back-ups of 400 TB are created, and 10,000 systems are supported – every day.