Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thoughts on VMworld

As promised, I've been formulating some closing thoughts about my first VMworld conference.

Overall, it was a fun experience. Going to conferences "at home" always prove to be more difficult logistically than going out of town. I was still on the hook for some of my morning and evening home responsibilities, so I didn't attend many of the evening events or the concert at AT&T Park. A bit bummed to have missed Imagine Dragons and Train, so maybe next time!

I can't say I was a big fan of the system where you registered for a seat in sessions. While I could see this being a boon for the event planners, it was frustrating as an attendee. I had difficulty deciding if I wanted to try to get into other sessions as "stand by" and risk giving up a registered seat elsewhere.  While not a big deal on the first day, as the conference progressed I found that my interests changed and I wanted more freedom in attending other sessions.

Also, I found that many of the sessions weren't very technical. I admit I did attend a few "business solutions" level sessions to get an overview of some of the topics I wasn't very familiar with, but even the "technical" and the "advanced technical" left me wishing for a bit more meat.

I attended sessions mostly around NSX, vCloud Hybrid Service and VSAN. With all of these technologies, VMware is clearly looking to make it as easy as possible for existing companies already virtualizing on VMware to embrace making their datacenters more automated. None of the ideas are "net-new" and many of the vendors that were in the Solutions Exchange area already have products that are functioning in that space or providing similar features, but I can understand why VMware would want to be able to provide similar technology options to their customers directly. I spent some time chatting with some vendors and the attitude was cordial, but at the same time it was clear that many will just be waiting to see if VMware can prove themselves in the market.

Looking at NSX, Windows Network Virtualization capabilities that are included in Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 SP1 compare directly with the VMware offering. In the R2 release (coming October 18th) it's been extended to include a free network virtualization gateway in Windows Server 2012 R2 and integrate top-of-rack network switch configuration and remediation. Also in the R2 release, there is full support with the Cisco Nexus 1000V while using network virtualization.

With regards to vCloud Hybrid Services, VMware seems to be directly targeting customers who are looking at using AWS for public cloud. By making it easy to move virtual machines into vCloud instead of AWS, they are open to capture companies that have lots of VMware infrastructure in place and are just starting to look at utilizing public cloud services. A marketing message that I got from the Solutions Exchange show floor was that AWS was a great "playground" for developers, but production level applications belonged in your datacenter and then scaled to the vCloud.

However, with less than a half-dozen US-only datacenter locations mentioned for vCloud, I can't see the solution being a suitable for companies looking for a more global footprint. Right now, Windows Azure has eight datacenters in the US, Europe and Asia, with and additional 6 centers in the works for Japan, Australia and mainland China. Azure is available for use by customers in 89 countries and territories.

VSAN is offering some compelling features for pooling storage from multiple disk locations and using different tiers of storage like SSD and traditional spindles to provide a virtualized storage solution. Without reinventing the wheel, I found a few interesting links on the web that you might want to reference for more information about how it works (also here) and some products it could compete with.

From Microsoft, there is the StorSimple product which allows you to use an appliance to introduce tiered storage levels as well as connect to the cloud for an additional level of storage. For an option that doesn't require an appliance, Storage Spaces was introduced with Windows Server 2012 and will be updated with additional features in Windows Server 2012 R2.

Overall, I really enjoyed the opportunity to attend VMworld and take the time to see what other product and offerings are going to be "on the menu" for IT Professionals working to make their datacenters more streamlined and cost effective.  For more detailed information about how Microsoft and VMware compare and contrast, make sure you check out the IT Evangelist Blog Series - "VMware or Microsoft?"

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