Lightning Between the Clouds

Today's VMWare announcements about vCloud are the first concrete announcement of a product that enables migrating VM sessions across corporate boundaries. With the success of VMotion at a technical level, the concept of outsourcing your DR centre was an obvious next steps, and vCloud formalizes the ability to define these relationships in code.

However, there are many significant technical and non-technical risks associated with such a service offering, including:
  • Storage Synchronization - In order to migrate VM sessions, the storage backing the VM session must also be synchronized across the two organizational entities. This plays well into EMC's hands to bundle location-independent storage along with VM functionality.
  • Security - VM sessions contain sensitive in-memory data, such as encryption keys, that (in a well-designed system) never makes it to disk. This is on top of the security issues associated with the storage associated with the sessions.
  • Multi-tenancy - An outsourcing provider will most likely be running VM sessions for multiple customers on a common infrastructure. Thus, network isolation, in additional to storage isolation and partitioning, become major issues that are not present when all resources are within a single enterprise.
  • Management - Resources need to be billed, QoS monitored, SLA's tracked and enforced, and loads predicted and managed. All this will have to work seamlessly across both the customer's and outsourcer's infrastructure. The back-office part of such a service is always under-estimated, and is critical to get right in order for a service to succeed.
Solving these problems is a pretty tall order, and I have to commend VMWare for their vision. This is version 2.0 of the VM revolution, and things are starting to get really interesting.

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