Key Takeawys from VMworld 2014

Last week was a pretty busy week with VMworld 2014 in San Franciso, followed by a long weekend during which some of us may be even busier. If you haven’t got chance to the conference, you can check out the recorded VMworld keynotes, and maybe later recorded break-out sessions.

While there were many announcements/news in the conference from VMware and other vendors. I think the following three are the most important ones.

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VMware EVO

It’s one-for-all appliance with VMware stack pre-installed and configured. It comes with two editions: RAIL and RACK. The RAIL is a four node cluster and can be expanded. The RACK. as its name suggests, is bigger in scale. This initiative is meant to remove the complexity for SMB market. It’s a step after the converged infrastructure that VCE has pioneered for years.

While this helps VMware to solidify the SMB market which is constantly challenged by Microsoft and OpenStack, the real motivation for VMware is the vSAN. The storage industry is experiencing an important shift from traditional scheme of dedicated storage boxes to more flexible and generic software defined storage. With EVO, VMware can bundle its new vSAN together with its flagship vSphere product in hope for a growth otherwise impossible.

While the revenue result remains to be seen, the strategy is right on. The VMware vSAN itself is still new in market place and facing strong competition from incumbent players. Bundling vSAN in EVO and selling it as hyper converged infrastructure changes conversation and makes it much easier for adoption.

It would of course turn some storage partners to competitors overnight. Luckily, VMware has the biggest storage vendor EMC as its main investor which does not care to put its money in left hand or right hand. For other storage vendors like NetApp, the initiative could feel hurt more than Cisco felt VMware’s Nicira acquisition.

As I observed in the solution exchange, there are many storage vendors in the show. While VMware getting into storage space, these vendors may also broaden its support for other hypervisors. They may also get into VMware’s space by pre-installing KVM as QNAP does. It would be hard for the storage started compute to succeed as mainstream, but for development/testing, SMB, home, out of box bundling of free hypervisors with NAS appliance may be an attractive option.

OpenStack Distro

OpenStack has been around for years, but the user experience still falls short. Even simple tasks like installation were not as easy and straight forward as most of us expected when I tried it a year ago. Surprisingly, it got all the attentions from various vendors.

VMware had supported OpenStack in early days, and even more after Nicira acquisition. VMware annouced it would ship its OpenStack distro. Hopefully it would improve the experience close to vSphere. With this announcement, I think it also implied that vCloud Director is totally dead.

Container Support

Over the last few months, Docker has caught lots of eyeballs. The company behind it was called that was initially stared on PaaS cloud service. The service was not as successful as the Docker technology they developed for their PaaS service, so the company renamed and refocused itself. The core of the technology is LXC which was not developed by Docker but Daniel Lezcano, Serge Hallyn, St├ęphane Graber. Docker adds CLIs/APIs, GIT integration, and blueprint like dockerfile.

The container sits on top of virtual machines, therefore it complements well with the virtulization. If the workload is highly uniformized, virtualization is not really needed. It can run directly on Linux OS like CentOS, Ubuntu, or the new CoreOS. The CoreOS is an interesting packaging of Linux with exactly the same idea as ESXi. If Ubuntu or CentOS is ESX, CoreOS is the ESXi.

In the IaaS and PaaS cloud market, the CoreOS + Docker could be a virtualization killer; In the enterprise market, it’s not, as about 80% workloads on VMware are Windows and cannot leverage Docker. By supporting containers, VMware has successfully turned a potential competitor into a partner. Good move.

Other than these 3 key takeawyas, I had expected a major GA release of vSphere at VMworld. It did not happen. Instead, a beta was announced without giving a GA date. There were feature discussions and demos, but since it’s private program I’d better talk more later when it’s officially GAed.

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    Me: Steve Jin, VMware vExpert who authored the VMware VI and vSphere SDK by Prentice Hall, and created the de factor open source vSphere Java API while working at VMware engineering. Companies like Cisco, EMC, NetApp, HP, Dell, VMware, are among the users of the API and other tools I developed for their products, internal IT orchestration, and test automation.