VMworld 2013 Impression: Is VMware Ready For Next Growth?

Last week was pretty exciting with VMworld 2013 in San Francisco. I sat through the keynotes and talked to many friends at VMware and partner community who showed up in the SolutionExchange where I spent most of my time. On Thursday I got a bit time to attend a few breakout sessions.

In first day keynote, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger laid out three imperatives for VMware: 1) Virtualization extended to ALL of IT; 2) Management gives way to automation; 3) Compatible hybrid cloud is ubiquitous. The keynote was centered around these three imperatives.

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For the first imperative, virtualization concept has been extended to not only compute but also storage and networking. But compute virtualization continues to be the most important for VMware at least in the near term. On that, vSphere 5.5 was announced with new features: doubled mission critical applications; App-aware HA, Big data extension (Serengeti). Later on, I found many stickers on breakfast tables, “Apps loves vSphere.” With the version number 5.5 VMware broke the previous product release pattern in which one big release followed by a minor release in every two years. Had the pattern held, the 5.5 should have been 6.0.

On storage, vSAN was also announced as public beta which would be released in first half of 2014. This may be the first public beta program versus private beta that VMware has been practicing for many years. I am sure the community would love to see more public beta programs.

On networking, NSX was introduced as the network virtualization platform with many partners in its ecosystem, except Cisco which has competing products. I like the name NSX as it returned back to the ESX naming tradition. If you want to pin down the hottest technology in VMworld 2013, it’s for sure NSX. According to my friends, sessions on NSX were filled quickly. There are definitely more work to be done to integrate the Nicira Network Virtualization Platform (NVP) with the existing VMware vCloud Networking & Security (vCNS). But having unified brand for marketing first is a smart move for competition.

Under the second imperative, automation is clearly emphasized. According to Pat, the key characteristics of management tools are script and rule based, and the automation is policy based. It’s not further explained what the real difference of rule based versus policy based is. As we see, most, if not all, policies are in fact defined as rules.

Product wise, VMware offers vCenter Automation Center and AppDirector for provisioning, vCenter Operations and LogInsight for operation, and IT Business Management Suite for financial management. A key message there is that VMware is no longer religious about its own hypervisor and would fully embrace OpenStack moving forward.

With the third imperative, the vCloud Hybrid Service is formally introduced with three focuses: disaster recovery, desktop as a service, and cloudfoundry. The service is hosted in Santa Clara, CA, and Las Vegas, NV on west coast, and Sterling, VA on east coast. If the service is well received by VMware customers, it may expand to other continents. I am sure customers have the needs, it’s mostly about execution on both business and technical sides.

VMware clearly has ambition on virtualize everything. In other words, it wants to be a layer that totally abstracts the infrastructure of compute, storage, and networking. This is a departure from previous vertical strategy that grows up the stack into middleware and application. Check out my previous article why VMware should take this horizontal strategy. I am glad to see my predictions turn reality today.

With the vision re-aligned, I think VMware has readies itself for next growth. Moving forward, more important than anything else is execution, meaning delivering products and services with high qualities in a predictable fashion.

The second day keynote came with many demos, which is supposed to be run CTO. After Steve Herrod left, VMware has not yet found his replacement. Maybe Steve had set a too high bar for the job. :) Nevertheless, VMware should hire a new CTO, the sooner the better.

On the exhibition floor, I don’t see many new companies. Infrastructure companies including products and services remain the major exhibitors. PaaS companies like ServiceMesh and ElasticBox have started to participate in the show. As the conversation moves up the stack, customers’ interests in PaaS continue to grow and the related products that support private PaaS will have bright future.

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