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Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Networking

Why virtualisation remains a technology for today and tomorrow

Andrew Haschka, Director, Cloud Platforms, Asia Pacific and Japan, VMware
The world is moving from data centres to centres of data. In this distributed world, virtualisation empowers customers to secure business-critical applications and data regardless of where they sit, according to Andrew Haschka, Director, Cloud Platforms, Asia Pacific and Japan, VMware.
 
“We think of server and network virtualisation as being able to enable three fundamental things: a cloud-centric networking fabric, with intrinsic security, and all of it delivered in software. This serves as a secure, consistent foundation that drives businesses forward,” said Haschka in an email interview with Networks Asia. “We believe that virtualisation offers our customers the flexibility and control to bring things together and choose which way their workloads and applications need to go – this will ultimately benefit their businesses the most.”
 
In the interview, Haschka also talked about VMware, vSphere’s readiness and ability to offer customers a compelling value proposition with moves towards hybrid and multi-cloud deployments.
 
Consolidation and virtualisation are buzzwords of a bygone era of maybe 10 years ago. What are the markets for them like? How much have APAC companies heeded the call to do both?
 
VMware helps customers drive toward 100 percent virtualized and cloud ready workloads for traditional and containerised applications. VMware vSphere Integrated Containers, Virtual Container Hosts and VMware PKS (Pivotal Container Service) provides critical enterprise container infrastructure to help IT Operations run both traditional and containerised applications side-by-side on a common platform. Supporting containers in their virtualized environments provides several benefits – IT teams get the security, isolation and management of virtual machines, while developers enjoy the speed and agility of containers – all within vSphere. This is just one example of why virtualisation remains a technology for today and tomorrow.
 
To enable such use cases, the Asia-Pacific region’s server virtualisation market is expected to grow to approximately US$8 billion by 2023 (according to www.marketresearchfuture.com). On different areas of scale, I’ve seen figures showing Australia at 85 percent virtualisation and China at 35 percent. Even in highly virtualised markets there is still a drive to deploy new workloads everywhere across new and existing environments. Organisations are continuing to create new applications and require new platforms to run these workloads. The most critical factor is not only which platform the workloads should be hosted on now, but also what is the most cost-effective, high-performing, secure and scalable location for diverse application requirements in the next five years or more.
 
VMware has a long history of consolidating servers from multiple racks and data centres, saving many customers the cost of real estate, power, cooling, maintenance and infrastructure investment. Today, both virtual machines and containers can help get the most out of available compute hardware and software resources – they are both great technologies that each have a place in the data centre. We believe that virtualisation offers our customers the flexibility and control to bring things together and choose which way their workloads and applications need to go – this will ultimately benefit their businesses the most.
 
After virtualisation, the Cloud came, and I remember VMware’s first moves with vSphere to support service provider partners and end user customers looking to move virtualised workloads to and from different Clouds. Then came AWS last year. How have business and customer demands evolved? And as businesses move away from private Clouds into public and hybrid environments, is vSphere still ready and able to offer customers a compelling value proposition with moves towards hybrid and multi-cloud deployments? 
 
Due to our legacy in virtualisation leadership, we’re also rapidly becoming the go-to-company for customers wanting hybrid and multi-cloud solutions.  A large majority of customers we meet today are running multi- or hybrid-clouds to leverage the benefits of server virtualisation on- and off-premises. Within that trend, however, enterprises are starting to favour the centralization of all their workloads across one consistent hybrid cloud environment with the same features, performance, security and availability. Specific to vSphere, they value the enterprise stability that it has to offer and are keen to extend that further to the cloud. This control and consistency are what we aim to achieve and explains our partnerships with public cloud providers like AWS and IBM, which will give customers complete compatibility and operational consistency across on- and off-premises environments.  Our ability to be the ‘control & management plane’ for customers’ complex cloud requirements puts us uniquely positioned at the intersection of their digital transformations.
 
As enterprises prepare for the hybrid cloud, what they demand is ease of migration. In order to facilitate cloud readiness, some customers are choosing to re-platform applications hosted on legacy mainframes and Unix services to virtual Linux on vSphere, refactoring applications to newer operating systems and cloud ready platforms as well as decommissioning older hypervisors that do not enable live migration and hybrid extensibility.
 
VMware offers a unique solution in promoting true hybridity between on-premises and off-premises. We have offered VMware vMotion for over a decade now, with the capability to migrate virtual machines between clouds whilst remaining online and retaining critical compute, storage and networking configurations. This can now even be performed at scale with a service like VMware HCX.
 
To manage costs, I also often recommend to customers that they set their baseline first for workloads running in data centres before moving somewhere else. VMware has many TCO and ROI tools to support these efforts. The VMware Hybrid Cloud Assessment for one, is a free service we offer to our customers to ensure they have the best possible visibility on cost across both private and public clouds before they make the move. Understanding not only infrastructure metrics with server, storage and networks but also metrics that allow customers to establish how to serve the application well are critical here. VMware vSphere promotes hundreds of metrics to gauge appropriate performance and ensure appropriate application service uptime, many of which may not be available on other clouds.
 
What about the old concerns of security and compliance? Can we automate enough through ML or implement solutions like RPA to address issues like availability, manageability and recovery across workloads and environments?
 
Security is indeed a critical investment area for every organisation I’ve met with. Many executives suggest that their greatest asset is their data, and the key to business growth is dependent on the scalable delivery of innovative applications. This means that consistency security of applications and data across clouds is crucial.
 
VMware vSphere, as the foundational platform for applications, promotes many features to deliver security from the hypervisor up. It is in a unique position to understand the demands from the hardware as well as which applications are running. A focus on securing virtual machines at rest and as they migrate across clouds with Encrypted vMotion is a great starting point to address these concerns. There are many things to consider that are unique to VMware in this space, including extending to Virtualization Based Security for Microsoft Windows 10 and Server 2016 virtual machines on vSphere to protect sensitive pieces of information, such as cached credentials, in addition to Secure Boot and Trusted Platform Module 2.0 for hardware integrity authentication.
 
Recently announced at VMworld 2018, vSphere Platinum can also increase visibility, detection and response for securing applications running across VMware clouds. Promoting automation of security through machine learning (ML), vSphere Platinum includes tight integration with VMware AppDefense; offering ML-based analytics on behaviour and reputation for application services. If a breach from known good behaviour of an application is encountered, automatic action can be enabled to ensure minimal overhead to maintenance staff. Compliance frameworks such as PCI-DSS and platform hardening can also be overlaid on VMware cloud platforms to identify configuration enhancements required to meet regulatory demands from authorities.
 
Simply put, the world is moving from data centres to centres of data. In this distributed world, virtualisation empowers customers to secure business-critical applications and data regardless of where they sit. We think of server and network virtualisation as being able to enable three fundamental things: a cloud-centric networking fabric, with intrinsic security, and all of it delivered in software. This serves as a secure, consistent foundation that drives businesses forward.
 
Businesses are looking now towards concerns like digital transformation and the microservices economy, how can vSphere serve as a conduit to these? What about cloud-native applications, Blockchain-as-a-Service, IoT and other emerging technologies?
 
VMware’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, recently talked about the four superpowers of IT being Mobile, Cloud, Edge / IoT and AI. Business I have met with confirm that these are driving factors for their businesses, in addition to Blockchain for the financial and telecommunications industries. Cloud native microservices and containers are a factor too but are more of an infrastructure platform to refactor or build applications on top of.
 
Digital transformation for me starts at the business objective. I often talk to customers around growing data – their most valuable asset – through IoT and Edge Analytics. Growing data is not only about amassing greater volumes of it, but also about analysing it to draw actionable insights. Across many industries, we are supporting data collection, aggregation and analytics with VMware Liota, VMware Pulse IoT Centre and SDDC deployments running on vSphere. To extend IoT use cases, we’ve also been able to drive Big Data Analytics on a vSphere-based hybrid cloud that aggregates Edge Analytics sites to the core. vSphere offers a host of other benefits that ensure resource intensive applications are truly best served across a VMware hybrid cloud – including the ability to dedicate or share thousands of cores from GPUs and vMotion GPU-enabled workloads to reduce costs and optimise hardware utilisation across clouds.
 
AI, ML and now Deep Learning are also trending in the market with applications like Tensorflow, Pytorch and Caffe. These applications often run in Docker containers or Kubernetes pods and require a level of scale that only a Hybrid Cloud can offer and a focus on security that may be lacking in developer-centric projects. Leveraging vSphere Platinum, we have the ability to secure these new workloads with an approach consistent to traditional virtual machines, as both will reside within the same VM construct. Tensorflow can also be downloaded for free from VMware Solution Exchange, our socially-enabled virtualisation and cloud marketplace. For customers keen to get started with the infrastructure they have, they can run Tensorflow as a virtual appliance on vSphere, rather than search for additional investment for public cloud hosted AI.
 
Finally, every financial institution I talk to today is interested in growing their business through data dissemination partnerships to enable mobile payments, digital insurance or global scale. These capabilities are best served by a permissioned blockchain consortium and requires performance to the likes of 10,000 transactions per second. VMware announced our own Blockchain framework at VMworld 2018, with Project Concord currently available to download free from GitHub. Many customers are choosing to download and run Project Concord from GitHub inside vSphere Integrated Containers or Virtual Container Hosts, with a roadmap to VMware PKS leveraging Kubernetes as they scale to hundreds of container instances and require enterprise grade lifecycle management. Customers are also keen for enterprise adoption features, to allow for a better ability to manage Blockchain centrally in addition to other blockchain frameworks like Ethereum, Hyperledger and Quorum.
 
Our vision is to provide each business with a digital foundation built on VMware – one that meets the organisation’s specific business innovation requirements and creates new possibilities for revenue growth and better customer engagement.