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Demise of vCloud Director means turbulence for some adoptees

VMware's plan to break apart vCloud Director could make for a painful divorce, depending on how integral the product is to a company's environment.

While announcing vCloud Director 5.5 at VMworld 2013, VMware also made public its plans for the product -- or lack thereof.

VMware told conference attendees that sometime after the 5.5 release, vCloud Director (vCD) will shift to being a service provider tool and will no longer be available to end customers. This statement by VMware offered no details on the timeline other than that it would occur over the "next few release cycles."  What is known is that current functionality of vCloud Director will be moved into either vCenter Server or vCloud Automation Center (vCAC), the latter of which is quickly becoming the centerpiece of VMware's cloud strategy.

VMware introduced vCD in 2010 to provide an additional layer of abstraction on top of vSphere for building multi-tenant cloud systems.  While service providers implemented vCloud Director fairly quickly, the adoption within VMware's user base was very slow due to the additional complexity it presented to a platform most customers felt was already running efficiently.  Therefore, future development of vCD will be completely focused on service provider functionality. 

What is known is that current functionality of vCloud Director will be moved into either vCenter Server or vCloud Automation Center (vCAC).

In 2012, VMware acquired DynamicOps, which provided a competing cloud management platform that could build not only on top of vSphere, but other hypervisor products, including Microsoft Hyper-V and Amazon AWS.  DynamicOps was released as vCAC. While vCAC manages multiple hypervisor technologies, it also provided a more mature end-user interface and policy-driven management architecture than vCD.

With the vCD changes, VMware is planning to simplify the deployment of private cloud within an enterprise infrastructure. By migrating the most important vCD functionality to enterprise customers looking to implement private cloud into vCenter Server, it reduces the need for an additional layer of software to deliver a functional cloud platform. If more advanced functionality is needed, like a more robust self-service interface designed for multi-tenancy, then vCAC will be available as part of the vCloud Suite.

How they’ll discontinue vCD

The first step in the elimination of vCD is the removal of vCD as a standalone product. From now on, it will only be available as a feature of the vCloud Suite. For users who have already purchased vCloud Director as a standalone product, VMware will convert their licenses to the vCloud Suite using a fair value conversion program.  All customers of the vCloud Suite will now have access to vCAC in every edition of the suite after upgrading to version 5.5.

Customers with vCD already deployed or in the process of being deployed should continue to use vCD, and should consider upgrading to version 5.5. Once they have upgraded, vCAC should be introduced into the solution as the primary interface and integration point of the vCloud deployment. By doing this, users will already be prepared for the removal of vCD from the environment. VMware expects to provide migration tools to assist with the migration off vCD, though no details are currently available on these tools. 

Prior to moving from vCD, customers will need to adjust any integrations they made directly with vCD.  This could be as costly as rewriting in-house developed applications or as simple as waiting for a supported release of a third-party application. VMware has announced the vCD APIs will be maintained but have not  specified the state in which they will be delivered.

If a customer hasn't already deployed vCD, VMware recommends they only implement vCD if the use cases cannot be delivered by vCAC.  Examples of where vCD will be required include multi-tenancy and advanced networking provisioning, particularly at the vApp level.  Otherwise, VMware says that vCAC should be able to provide the base functionality for deploying an enterprise cloud.

In the long view, VMware seems to be making a good move towards simplification of its cloud software stack.  How painful this transition will be for the company's most advanced customers will be dependent on the migration strategy they will offer.  As long-time VMware users will know, these transitions aren't always smooth.

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How do you feel VMware handled the demise of vCloud Director?