VMware’s new CEO Paul Maritz (right) used his first VMworld keynote on Tuesday to introduce the company’s Virtual Datacenter Operating System (VDC-OS) to an audience of IT professionals and technology industry insiders at the VMworld 2008 conference at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

With the Virtual Datacenter OS, VMware wants to essentially de-emphasize the traditional OS in the server room (Windows, Linux, and Unix) and use a new software layer — the VDC-OS — to aggregate different types of hardware resources and make the hardware itself invisible to the applications that run on it.

Dan Kusnetzky of ZDNet’s Virtually Speaking summed up the technical details:

“Virtual Datacenter OS (VDC-OS) for the internal cloud allows efficient and flexible use of applications and resources. VMware will be evolving their infrastructure to support both existing and future workloads. This requires the creation of a new software platform. VMware is posing a new layer of software that can create an elastic, self-managing, self-healing software platform that will sit between the workloads and the underlying hardware.”

Maritz used this concept to hitch VMware to cloud computing, saying organizations can use this VMware architecture to create their own private cloud for delivering computing and applications. As you can see in the photo below, VMware even advertised the “Cloud” in its booth in the VMworld expo hall.

After the keynote, several attendees were asking each other questions like “Do you understand what the Virtual Datacenter Operating System is?” and “How is it different than what they’re already doing?” Since, you can already see the processors and memory of various servers, separate from the physical hardware, the techies aren’t sure what additional benefits they get .

VMware’s pitch is to replace the current OS architecture with a virtualized OS. This is extremely ambitious, and also highly unlikely. They’d be much better off just focusing making computers, networks, and storage more virtualization-aware. That’s essentially was what the company is doing, but it’s dressing it up as the “Virtual Datacenter OS.”

It’s also unclear how much of this is a real product direction or if it’s just marketing spin. TechRepublic’s virtualization columnist Steven Warren has been running around VMworld berating his connections at VMware to get a look at VDC-OS and get more details and no one has been able to show him anything yet.

All that said, it takes bold moves to change an industry and make history. If this isn’t just marketing spin and vaporware, then VMware does have the potential to shake up the server OS market. I’m just not sure how different VDC-OS is from simply virtualizing the OS and creating management software to tie VM’s together.

And, if it truly does want to create a new software layer that replaces or de-emphasizes the operating system then I doubt VMware can really pull that off — not without changing the underlying application architecture, and VMware can’t do that without a lot of help from a lot of different vendors, including rivals like Microsoft and Citrix.