VMware’s stack heads to Arm architecture – out on its new two-faced edge

vSphere as-a-service on the way too, along with software-defined memory


VMworld VMware will move its whole stack to the Arm architecture, as part of a new offering aimed at what it's labelled "edge-native apps".

VMware's concept doesn't diverge markedly from previous theories about why the edge matters, namely that sometimes it makes sense to run a workload close to where data is produced or consumed. The virtualization giant has taken that a little further, however, defining a "near edge" location as being the place for workloads that run "anywhere between the cloud and the remote customer location and delivered as a service."

The "far edge" is for workloads "placed at a remote customer location at the closest proximity to the endpoints."

While that's some novel jargon, VMware's answer about how to do it well is not – the company has gone with the familiar "put our integrated stack of virtualized compute, storage, and networking – and our take on zero trust – all over the edge so your environment is consistent." Or as the company now calls it "VMware Cross-Cloud Services for All Apps".

That plan means the core VMware stack now comes in a new cut called – no surprises here – VMware Edge, revealed today at the VMworld gabfest.

As is now standard in VMware's work, the new offering will bundle vSphere and Tanzu so it can run VMs or containers, plus virtual storage and SD-WAN in pricier editions.

Combined with VMware's Secure Access Service Edge and Telco Cloud Platform, VMware Edge will let organisations define an infrastructure template, deploy it to thousands of sites, and propagate and maintain applications in all those locations.

X86 servers will be supported for starters, but VMware told The Register: "Support for ARM based hardware is in the roadmap but not supported in this first launch."

Another future release will offer "a lightweight version of VMware Edge Compute Stack to provide an extremely thin edge for more lightweight apps."

Maybe that's the Arm play?

Teasing vSphere as-a-service

Among the other announcements at VMworld were "Project Arctic", a vSphere-as-a-service that will integrate public clouds. Currently in tech preview, VMware is not saying much about this one beyond: "Customers will be able to take advantage of unlimited cloud capacity on-demand and instantly access VMware Cross-Cloud services through vCenter."

Project Arctic is very much in line with VMware's stated intention to turn all its portfolio into SaaS and/or managed services. A new sign of that plan is the forthcoming VMware Cloud with Tanzu services that will add managed Kubernetes as a free component of VMware Cloud on AWS. Another AWS collaboration will see VMware Cloud run on AWS' on-prem "Outposts" in coming weeks, sold as PaaS.

VMware and Dell may be about to split, but they're clearly going to be friends with benefits because VMware Cloud will be sold in Dell's APEX ITaaS environment for that pay-as-you-go experience.

The new offer means customers can choose between paying Dell to run VMware Cloud or paying VMware for VMware Cloud. The Register found that a little confusing. Virtzilla told us: "Key decision criteria will primarily be based on the customer's preference in the commercial transaction and user experience."

New combinations of network virtualization and zero-trust security are another field VMware continues to explore. New at VMworld is the Elastic Application Security Edge (EASE) – tech that auto-scales security infrastructure and policies at the edge. This one's aimed at apps with variable traffic, so they can scale security as their supporting infrastructure grows on demand.

"Secure Workload Access" is another newbie, offering the promise that security policy will remain in place even as workloads run and share data across multiple resource pools.

Tanzu time

VMware's container portfolio keeps expanding – notably with the new Community Edition we reported earlier.

VMware Secure State has added Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM) that can now detect and report misconfiguration of Kubernetes clusters. Tanzu Service Mesh is better at reporting on exactly how APIs are communicating, even across public clouds, to let security teams know what they need to worry about.

Tanzu Application Platform has entered beta and added IDE plugins so developers can work with their preferred tools, among other additions.

Tanzu Kubernetes Grid has also gained the ability to access cloudy hosts packing Nvidia GPUs.

Just in case you haven't noticed that VMware really, really, wants you to use Tanzu, a licensing tweak means you'll be able to apply VMware cloud universal subscription credits to running Tanzu standard edition.

Also teased ahead of VMworld were "Project Cascade", styled as a "Next-generation Multi-Cloud Consumption Surface Powered by Kubernetes".

Another future product is "Project Capitola", which will deliver software-defined memory to help memory-intensive apps by "aggregating memory tiers across DRAM, persistent memory, NVMe and other future technologies."

Missing from the pre-show briefing offered to The Register was any update on VMware's plans to use data processing units (DPUs), aka SmartNICs, or the status of its hypervisor for Arm-powered servers. Nvidia, however, announced it is offering a preview of its DPUs running VMware's experimental Arm hypervisor, in the service of relieving server CPUs and GPUs of the need to run housekeeping workloads.

All of the stuff that was announced serves VMware's largely unchanged strategy of letting you run anything, anywhere, with software-defined networking and security to safely wrap it all up as a single logical construct.

The company's attempting to define a couple of new anywhere with its near and far edge definitions, which may sound like the result of an expensive marketing consultation – but then so did terms like "private cloud" and "software-defined data centre" when VMware started tossing them around at previous VMworlds. ®

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