Virtualisation market leader VMware has introduced what it is calling the industry's first operating system for building the internal cloud.

VMware feels that today with budgetary constraints, most IT departments are struggling with reduced budgets to simply keep the lights on, and although the idea of cloud computing is attractive, many organisations do not necessarily have the skills to roll it out.

VMware vSphere 4 is essentially the next version of VMware Infrastructure 3, but with added functionality, namely greater efficiency and performance needed to run business critical applications in large-scale environments, as well as greater control over application SLAs (service level agreements).

"It [VMware vSphere 4] is an evolution of VMware Infrastructure 3, hence the 4 name," said Fredrik Sjostedt, Director of EMEA Product Marketing at VMware. "It is an operating system for private clouds." He said that whereas in the past VMware had targeted the server, vSphere was for entire data centre.

"We have been working on the next iteration for quite a long time now," Sjostedt told Techworld. "It is an extension of where we were with VMware Infrastructure 3. It is an ongoing evolution from an engineering perspective."

VMware says that customers using vSphere 4 can take "pragmatic steps to achieve cloud computing within their own IT environments." It feels that there is significant cost savings, less complexity, and increased flexibility can be realised from these internal clouds.

vSphere 4 "aggregates and holistically manage large pools of infrastructure - processors, storage and networking - as a seamless, flexible and dynamic operating system" said the company. It is touting guaranteed service levels, as the new operating system adds fault tolerance to its existing capabilities in the area of live migration and high availability.

"Data centres are spending three quarters of their budget just to keep the lights on," said Sjostedt. "They are not spending much on innovation, which is a real challenge in these financially tight times, as the budget for innovation is smaller than ever."

"We enable organisations to take a much more SLA driven approach to computing environments," he added. "Consolidation is not where the real value lies, the real value lies in management and making sure the infrastructure is resilient, and if outage happens, then no one notices if a server goes down."

Sjostedt said the new fault tolerance option, means that a second virtual machine is spooled up elsewhere in the infrastructure, which replicates every single instruction to first machine but doesn't execute them. That way, if a virtual server goes down, there "is an instant switchover to a switched clone." This way, continuous available of an application is ensured, without service interruption.

VMware is also touting the ability of vSphere 4 to achieve both capex and opex cost savings over and above what was possible with VMware Infrastructure 3. It estimates it can achieve a 30 percent increase in consolidation ratios, up to 50 percent storage savings (via VMware vStorage Thin Provisioning which minimises storage over-provisioning), and up to 20 percent additional power and cooling savings (via VMware Distributed Power Management which uses to VMware VMotion to automatically place all virtual machines on as few physical servers as possible without compromising service levels.)

The beta has been out for a number of months now at client sites, but this is the first time VMware has gone public about it. General availability is expected on 21 May. It will be available in six different editions depending on company size.

VMware did not response with exact UK pricing, but said that vSphere 4 pricing starts at $166 (£114) per processor.