Clear Vision and Steady Footing in the Age of Cloud from VMworld

As I return from VMworld 2010 in San Francisco, I wanted to share my thoughts on what I heard and the areas that I will continue to research and analyze in the coming months.  Overall, I think that there was a good solid mixture of new announcements, vision, and lots of opportunities to understand or get hands-on with existing solutions—all without too much cloud-washing.  There were great customer proof-points that were shared in sessions, in the solutions pavilion and on the live streaming video on SiliconANGLE.TV.  I’ll be helping to curate the video content as part of my research agenda.

  1. The new stack for IT as a Service (ITaaS). In his keynote, CEO Paul Maritz laid out the three layers that make up the stack on which VMware will focus: Infrastructure Platform (centered around vSphere), Application Platform (the Spring acquisition is critical), and End User Access (Zimbra is in this bucket, along with virtual desktop including mobile).  Defining the market so specifically is not only good thought leadership, but also a way to box the competition out or to get them to fight battles on fronts where VMware has the upper hand. 
  2. Ecosystem.  VMware is much more than server virtualization.  In his analyst day briefing, COO Tod Nielsen stated that VMware’s goal is to be the cornerstone of the next era in IT.  To do this, it is critical that they maintain a good working relationship with the ecosystem.  On the technology supplier side, will VMware’s increased portfolio of security, management and networking solutions create competitive conflicts that could slow their growth?  While it is only a small niche technology company that won’t have some coopetition with their ecosystem, VMware’s biggest relationships (including Dell, IBM, HP EMC and Cisco) now cross many product lines.  VMware got a boost in the management space with the products that were sold from EMC; it will be interesting to watch the EMC, RSA (subsidiary of EMC) and VMware (EMC is the majority stock holder) dynamic with vShield. Speaking of which, I know that the EMC/VMware relationship is heavily scrutinized. As someone who was part of the relationship even before the acquisition (from inside EMC working with VMware for 7 years), and now from the outside, I assure you: the companies operate independently and fairly. I did not hear a single concern or complaint about bias or favoritism towards EMC at the conference.
  3. Mobility. The cloud is all about mobility and it was a consistent theme at the event.                        * vMotion – enabling VM mobility – is still one of VMware’s key differentiators against competitive virtualization offerings. Here’s a quick video with vExpert Aaron Delp on how vSphere 4.1 now supports 10Gb Ethernet for vMotion (if you have access, see the replay of VMworld session TA8440 – 10Gb & FCoE Real World Design Considerations).
  4. While server virtualization may have hit a tipping point (more virtual applications were deployed in 2009 than physical applications), virtual desktop adoption has been moving slowly in replacing the traditional Windows desktop.  If the focus can turn to enabling a more flexible and mobile workforce, it should gain more traction.  There is a great opportunity for VMware to deliver business solutions not only on Apple’s iPad, but also potentially with Cisco (who announced their Cius tablet at Cisco Live in June) and HP (who is believed to have a Slate coming later this year).
  5. Hybrid Cloud and the xSP. While the infrastructure providers are all putting together their own stacks of products and working on partnerships, when it comes to the cloud solutions for the enterprise, it is going to be a heterogeneous environment.  As companies adopt public cloud and create their own private clouds, it is the service providers that have a huge opportunity to help IT organizations deploy, manage and support the resulting hybrid cloud solutions.
  6. vAgents of Change.  Virtualization is still relatively new to IT, but it has clearly crossed the chasm into a mainstream product line with 190,000 customers.  Leading the charge to deliver virtualization around the globe are 50,000 VMware Certified Professionals.  The culture of the virtualization community goes far beyond understanding a few products, as can be seen by the volunteer group that puts together the VM User Groups (VMUGs) and the passion of the vExperts.  Will these expert ambassadors of virtualization embrace and drive the change to cloud computing?

VMware is still a relatively small company compared with some of the traditional giants in IT, but with a strong vision, loyal customers, and growing ecosystem, they are on a trajectory to change the broader IT industry with ITaaS, just as they already have with server virtualization.

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