10 things seen and heard at VMworld

A Microsoft guerrilla marketing campaign, VMware’s plans for the iPhone, and other tidbits.

10 quick-hit observations from VMware’s annual conference.

1. 14,000 people showed up for VMworld at the Venetian in Las Vegas, more than twice the number of people who actually work for the host company. VMware has 6,000 employees, including 2,500 in research and development, CTO Stephen Herrod said.

2. Microsoft conducted some guerrilla marketing at VMworld, passing out fake casino chips directing attendees to a Web site titled "VMware Costs Way Too Much." The Microsoft-hosted site says “Looking for your best bet? You won’t find it with VMware,” and provides several links to virtualization pages on Microsoft.com.

3. VMware CEO Paul Maritz is a former Microsoft executive. He amusedly remarked on “the fact that the great and mighty Microsoft is forced to come out here and dish out tchotchkes our customers.”

Reflecting on his own work history, Maritz said “as somebody who has perpetrated guerrilla campaigns in the past, it’s what the follower does, it’s not what the leader does.”4. During a Q&A session with dozens of media members, Maritz was asked about the “mood” of VMware employees following the firing of former CEO Diane Greene and trouble with VMware’s stock. There’s always a certain amount of concern after a leadership change, he noted, but VMware employees “really respond to environments where they have deep and meaningful challenges.”

“Whatever angst there may or may not be at the current time will be a passing phenomenon,” Maritz said.

5. Is VMware building a 4,096-core server? Not really, but the company claims that its forthcoming Virtual Datacenter Operating System, which will aggregate virtual servers into easily controlled resource pools, will be able to manage as many as 4,096 processor cores in a single pool.

6. VMware is getting more into storage management. Herrod said VMware will introduce live migration for storage, allowing virtual machines to be moved from one piece of storage to another without any downtime. Herrod said VMware is also working on thin provisioning, a feature that provides more flexibility in assigning storage to applications. Like the Virtual Datacenter Operating System, these capabilities presumably won’t be available until sometime in 2009.

7. Just like seemingly every other IT company, VMware loves the word “cloud” these days, but Herrod admits overuse of the word can be confusing. “The cloud might be the most abused phrase since virtualization,” he said.

VMware wasn’t afraid to feed into the cloud hype, though. The company announced a “vCloud” partner initiative, and everywhere you go at VMworld, there are cloud-shaped thought bubbles containing the phrase “virtually anything is possible.” VMware sees cloud computing as a model that is highly scalable and elastic, allowing customers to use only the resources they need and access applications from anywhere, Herrod said.

8. VMware customers want to be just like Google, according to Maritz. “They think Google has this giant computer they can flexibly deploy applications on top of, and that’s what they aspire to achieve,” he said. These customers say they want to operate an “internal cloud,” as if they were a “hosting provider to internal customers,” he said. This will require more flexible and efficient methods of delivering computing resources, Maritz said.

9. Plastered all over the conference walls are cartoon pictures of customers along with quotes describing the success they’ve had with VMware. The quotes are from actual customers, though some are anonymous. One example: “We consolidated 26 call centers into two. Virtualization made it possible by ensuring HA [high availability] and enabling remote management and provisioning of virtual desktops.”

10. The iPhone and other mobile devices are in VMware’s plans. Herrod said VMware’s research and development team is working on virtualization technology for such gadgets.

“That is an area we’re thinking about,” Maritz said of supporting mobile devices. “We think there’s a move for virtualization in these mobile phones and PDAs, and I hope to have more to say about that in the future.”

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