Mark this date. While it isn't an anniversary of anything significant in the past, it is a day where our beloved cloud computing market showed significant signs of maturing. Major announcements by VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft all signaled significant progress in making cloud platforms (infrastructure-as-a-service [IaaS] and platform-as-a-service [PaaS]) more enterprise ready and consumable by I&O professionals.

* VMware updates its cloud stack. The server virtualization leader announced version 5 of its venerable hypervisor and version 1.5 of vCloud Director, its IaaS platform atop vSphere. Key enhancements to vCloud include more hardening of its security and resource allocation policy capabilities that address secure multitenancy concerns and elimination of the "noisy neighbor" problem, respectively. It also doubled the total capacity of VMs service providers can put in a single cloud to 20,000. VMware also resurrected a key feature from its now defunct Lab Manager — linked clones. This key capability for driving operational efficiency lets you deploy new VMs from the image library and the system will maintain the relationship between the golden image and the deployed VM. This does two things; it minimizes the storage footprint of the VM, much as similar technology does in virtual desktops, and second it uses the link to ensure clones maintain the patch level and integrity of the golden master. This alone is reason enough to consider vCloud Director.

To help both virtualization and cloud environments, VMware also made a significant change to its licensing model, moving away from CPU core entitlements (VMware will still count processor sockets, though) to pooled vRAM entitlements. This change ties licensing more to the use of the product and encourages greater VM consolidation as it counts VMs by size, rather than per physical server. This incents packing lots of VMs on a single system and even lets you share vRAM entitlements across physical systems to accommodate more seamless growth of your environment and management of the pool, a key operational change called out in our Virtualization Maturity Model. Basically, now you can entitle your virtual environment in total, based on its capacity, and fill it up as much as you want. This is much more consistent with their service provider pricing model; and if your goal is to build a private cloud, isn't that the point?

All in all, this shows that VMware gets it and is taking an active role in helping educate its customers that virtualization and cloud operations are two different things and making these distinctions clear is critical to their and your success. Well done, VMware.

* Citrix's acquisition of its OpenStack doppelganger, comes just months after Citrix announced its intention to commercialize an OpenStack solution for enterprises and service providers. Now they can stop that work. has successfully penetrated the service provider market with its OpenStack-based solution and racked up some solid wins in the enterprise to boot. This buy accelerates Citrix' IaaS efforts and gives solid financial backing to CloudStack. Sadly, though, it also reduces the number of commercial distributions of OpenStack by one.

Enterprise I&O pros should note that CloudStack is hypervisor agnostic, so this isn't a Xen-only play. And the synergies between CloudStack and the rest of its application and desktop virtualization portfolio aren't lost on the company or its service provider partners and prospects. Look to see more combined solutions that help you vend apps and desktops from a cloud in the future.

* Microsoft, here at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles, stepped up its cloud game as well by showing the beta of System Center 2012, which adds a self-service portal for using Hyper-V as a private cloud platform and better orchestration for workload deployment. It also demonstrated new public cloud services from Boeing and General Mills plus a commissioned report by Forrester attesting to the differentiated economics of cloud platforms, something I talk about with CIOs in a report published this past spring.

For ISVs, Microsoft also announced commercial opportunities on Windows Azure for its massive software partner ecosystem. The Azure Marketplace can now vend commercial applications, meaning that any software application built for Windows (using the VMrole) or through Visual Studio (using the worker role) theoretically can be offered through Windows Azure as well.

Together, these announcements are strong milestones to the continuing progress and solid traction cloud platforms are having with the market. While the private cloud market is still very, very young, moves like these put it on more solid footing and should lead to expanded options for I&O professionals.