With the French Riviera as a backdrop, VMware announced early Tuesday morning that it was unveiling additional components to support its vision of eventually combining internal data centers with hosted cloud services to create a more flexible IT computing infrastructure.

“VMware’s focus is on enabling our customers to run their datacenters as internal clouds and operate in a far more flexible and cost-efficient way,” said Paul Maritz, VMware's president and chief executive officer. “Our customers want the plumbing to disappear – in the datacenter, on the desktop and in the cloud – so they can focus their staff time and IT budget on delivering business value." (View the Paul Maritz keynote address.)

VMware took a few more steps towards making all that plumbing disappear by announcing a number of new products, including: VMware vShield Zones, a virtual appliance that helps enforce security and regulatory policies for customers adopting cloud computing; the VMware Client Virtualization Platform (CVP), a new bare-metal client hypervisor designed to take advantage of Intel vPro technology; and vCenter Server Heartbeat, a new product that provides managing and monitoring capability for the automatic failover features of VMware vCenter Server.

I recently spoke with Bogomil Balkansky, VMware's vice president of product marketing, and he compared VMware's goal of a cloud-based IT infrastructure to an electrical grid. "When you look at the electrical grid, there's a tremendous amount of complexity required to generate and transmit that energy. As a user of electricity, I couldn't care less about that complexity," Balkansky said. "If I need to power an appliance, I plug it into the wall and juice is going to flow. I also only pay for what I want. We'd like to elevate IT infrastructure to that same level. Consumers may eventually be able go through a web portal, pick the IT services that they want, swipe their credit card, and only pay for what they use."

Balkansky said that VMware is developing a vCloud API that will facilitate interoperability between internal cloud resources. "Our work on this front will help specify a common location for two cloud instances to exchange information, to have a handshake in the middle, and keep track of who owns the resources and who manages them," says Balkansky. "The vCloud API is currently in private release and in co-development with partners."

VMware is also working with partners to develop industry standards to enable interoperability between cloud services. Balkansky points to VMware's work with the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), which VMware will work with to develop standards around the vCloud API.

VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat will be available in March 2009, while the VMware Client Virtualization Platform (CVP) and VMware vShield Zones should shipping in the second half of 2009.

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