Kathy Gibson is at VMworld 2020 – Remote working, coupled with a move to process automation, is driving rapid developments around edge computing.

Meanwhile, next-generation applications will leverage a raft of new technologies including AI, machine learning and 5G applications.

Looking to partner on developing the architecture for the data centre, cloud and edge to enable these new technologies, VMware has announced its Project Monterey technology preview.

Project Monterey was born from a need to deliver modern applications efficiently and securely

The applications haven’t really changed, says Kit Colbert, chief technology officer: cloud platform at VMware. What has changed is everything else.

“Modern business is driving modern applications, but modern apps are driving modern infrastructure – and impacting it in interesting new ways,” he says.

Today, cloud-native apps are distributed, while 5G applications require more bandwidth. Meanwhile, machine learning and data-centric apps strain the CPU and so IT departments turn to things like GPUs to take up the slack.

Multi-cloud and hybrid applications are becoming more common, running anywhere and doing away with the traditional perimeter

“So the core CPU is becoming a bit of a bottleneck, and people are looking to offload work from the CPU.”

Security is another bugbear that weighs on IT operations.

“Most data centres are just not equipped to handle the new demand,” Colbert says. “So there are dramatic increases in network bandwidth that drive up operating costs.”

To tackle these issues, organisations have adopted specialised systems with hardware accelerators such as graphics processing units (GPUs), field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and NICs with offloading to support the performance and security needs of new apps.

“Meanwhile, we see the security landscape becoming more complex, leading to unacceptable levels or risk,” Colbert says.

“This all leads to an unsustainable increase in TCO – capex and opex – and a high security risk.

“And this is why we are introducing Project Monterey.”

Project Monterey redefines the hybrid cloud architecture for a new generation of applications.

Joe Baguley, vice-president and chief technology officer: EMEA at VMware, explains that Project Monterey is not a product, but rather a notice of intent around development and partnering.

The new initiative aims to extend VMware Cloud Foundation to support Smart NIC (network interface card) technology. This will drive increased performance, distributed security and consistent operations for all applications.

Project Monterey is about changing the architecture, using SmartNICs (network interface cards) and composable services enabling hardware multi-tenancy.

“It is about redefining cloud architecture for a new generation of applications,” says Baguley.

SmartNICs are able to run other services, such as a hypervisor, he explains.

“What it means is that you can run your applications on the servers, with networking, security and storage on the NIC.

“So what was previously done in the server can now be done in the NIC. Now the processor can do what it was means to do, and you are also introducing a security airgap layer in the SmartNIC.

“We will see a decentralising of the data centre, as we move processing out on to the NICs and to the edge. It’s how data centres are going to be built in the future.”

VMware has announced collaboration with ecosystem partners to deliver solutions based on Project Monterey including Intel, NVidia and Pensando Systems and system companies Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo.

VMware is evolving VMware Cloud Foundation (VMware vSphere, VMware vSAN and VMware NSX) to support SmartNIC technology (also referred to as data processing units or DPUs), a new architectural component that offloads processing tasks that the server CPU would normally handle.

By supporting SmartNICs, VMware Cloud Foundation will be able to maintain compute virtualisation on the server CPU while offloading networking and storage I/O functions to the SmartNIC CPU.

This will allow applications to maximise the use of the available network bandwidth while saving server CPU cycles for top application performance.

VMware has taken the first step of this evolution by enabling VMware ESXi to run on SmartNICs.

Project Monterey also includes platform re-architecture.

VMware Cloud Foundation will be re-architected to enable disaggregation of the server including extending support for bare metal servers.

This will enable an application running on one physical server to consume hardware accelerator resources such as FPGAs from other physical servers.

This will also enable physical resources to be dynamically accessed based on policy or via software API, tailored to the needs of the application.

Additionally, because ESXi is running on the SmartNIC, organisations will be able to use a single management framework to manage all their compute infrastructure whether it be virtualised or bare metal.

The decoupling of networking, storage, and security functions from the main server allows these functions to be patched and upgraded independently from the server.

Project Monterey embraces VMware’s vision for intrinsic security.

Each SmartNIC is capable of running a fully-featured stateful firewall and advanced security suite.

Since this will run in the NIC and not in the host, up to thousands of tiny firewalls will be able to be deployed and automatically tuned to protect specific application services that make up the application – wrapping each service with intelligent defenses that can shield any vulnerability of that specific service.

This will enable a custom-built defense that can be automatically tuned and deployed across tens of thousands of application services.

In addition, Project Monterey will enable enterprises or service providers supporting multiple tenants to isolate tenants from the core infrastructure.

Project Monterey will enable organisations to adapt data centre, cloud or edge environments for application-specific performance, availability and security needs.

Additionally, the initiative will extend VMware infrastructure and operations for all applications – reducing the need for specialised systems, teams and management tools – which in turn will be able to reduce overall complexity and TCO.

Globally, telcos are increasingly leveraging the VMware Telco Cloud platform to virtualise and containerise their 5G network deployments. Project Monterey will help them further accelerate their buildout of highly-efficient fully-virtualised 5G infrastructure that will be essential to deliver the advanced, innovative services expected on 5G networks.