VMware is developing a managed edge appliance that has compute and storage for running applications and a software-defined WAN for connecting to the data center and public clouds.
The upcoming offering is in technical preview under the name Project Dimension. The product is a lightweight hyper-converged infrastructure system that includes the vSphere infrastructure compute stack and the vSAN software-defined storage product.
For networking, Project Dimension uses VMware's NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud, which VMware acquired last year. The VeloCloud SD-WAN provides connectivity to the corporate data center, SaaS or applications running on IaaS.
Project Dimension is essentially the branch version of VMware's Cloud Foundation, which merges compute, storage and network provisioning to simplify application deployment in the data center and the Amazon and Microsoft Azure public clouds. Companies could use Project Dimension to run IoT and other software in retail stores, factories and oil rigs, according to VMware. Actual hardware for the system would come from VMware partners.
Companies already using Cloud Foundation could apply their policies and security to applications running on Project Dimension.
"There's a lot of potential for operational simplicity. There's the potential for improved multi-cloud management, and there's the potential for faster time to market [for users' applications]," said Stephen Elliot, an analyst at IDC.
But Project Dimension's hybrid cloud approach -- which lets companies run some applications at the edge, while also connecting to software running in the cloud -- could eventually make it a "niche product," said Andrew Froehlich, president of computer consultancy West Gate Networks, based in Loveland, Colo.
"While hybrid architectures are extremely common today, most businesses are looking to get to a 100% public cloud model as soon as they can," he said. "Thus, it's an interesting concept -- and one that some can use -- but I don't see this making a significant impact long term."
How Project Dimension works as a managed service
VMware plans to offer Project Dimension as a managed service. A company would order the service by logging into the VMware Cloud and going to its Edge Portal, where the business would choose a Project Dimension resource cluster and a service-level agreement.
Businesses would then upload the IP addresses of the edge locations, where VMware would send technicians to install the Project Dimension system. Each system would appear as a separate cluster in the Edge Portal.
VMware plans to use its cloud-based lifecycle management system to fix failures and handle infrastructure firmware and software updates. As a result, companies could focus on developing and deploying business applications without having to worry about infrastructure maintenance.
VMware, which introduced Project Dimension last week at the VMworld conference in Las Vegas, did not say when it would release the product. Also, the company did not disclose pricing.