Curated virtualized environments

By Juan Orlandini
7/6/2011

What if we had a curated VMware world?

It's no secret that VMware has been telling everyone that the future is ESXi. The service console (SC) is going away. And it's happening soon. Really soon. There are a number of reasons that VMware is doing this, but the interesting thing is why it took them so long to do it. One of the major reasons to go to this model is to remove a major security and patch maintenance nightmare. The SC is a modified Red Hat Linux. If you look at the volume of patches that you apply to any release, the overwhelming majority are for the Linux piece. The VMkernel is being patched, but it is a relatively small amount of stuff.

That's all fine and good. But there's another thing that's happening as part of this. VMware does not give their partner ecosystem willy-nilly access to the kernel. And for good reason. That would introduce all sorts of reliability, security, and maintenance issues for them. So, how are their partners that relied on the SC to do its magic going to do their magic when the SC is gone? VMware is keenly aware of this and that is why they have taken a long time to transition from ESX to ESXi. It was done partly to provide time for their partners to move their solutions to non-SC implementations. But, it was also partly to give VMware time to develop and improve the APIs that are available to the partner community. Without some sort of API, it would be impossible for many of the SC-based magic to be moved to ESXi.

Storage is particularly telling in this. I've written about the vStorage APIs hereherehere, and here. There is no better way of seeing how the ESXi transition is happening than by looking at these APIs. Betweeen VADP and VAAI, much of the secret sauce that vendors had in the SC has been moved to the kernel via standard APIs. That helped level the playing field for most of the storage vendors. There's still a bunch of stuff that vendors do that they can't do via the VAAI or VADP stuff ... today. But soon, and this is all I can say, there's going to be change.

Let me give it to you via an analogy (thanks Heff). VMware is moving from the Android model to the Apple iOS model. In the past, the SC console let anyone do anything (Android). In the future, you will have to write to the APIs (iOS). VMware is curating the ecosystem. In my book that's a good thing. Curated environments, by and large, are much more stable, and because of that, they will grow. The partner ecosystem will still be as vibrant as it is today, but in a much cleaner way.

Stay tuned.

I'll have much more to say about this soon.