VMWorld 2014 was a whirlwind. The conference last week attracted 22,000 attendees, more than 250 exhibitors and spread across all three buildings of the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco over a five-day period.
There was a lot of news at the show: From VMware announcing new products like EVO:RAIL, the hyper-converged infrastructure stack, to the company pledging support for OpenStack and containers in its software. Almost all of the vendors at the show had their own news, too -- it was hard to keep track of it all.
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To boil it down, Network World put together a list of “Winners and Losers” from VMWorld. But please, take it with a grain of salt. We’re not looking to call anyone a “loser,” but, after talking with analysts, partners, customers and VMware officials, there are some areas of significant new importance for VMware, and others where Network World, and the broader VMware community, would have liked to see some more action and details.
End User Computing (EUC) Division
VMware made a big push for its End User Computing (EUC) division at VMWorld. The group has made some big news in the past year - bringing on new executives like Sanjay Poonen from SAP and making the largest acquisition in company history when VMware bought AirWatch for $1.4 billion earlier this year.
At VMWorld 2014, the EUC division was front and center. Poonen took the prime-time spot of the second-day keynote to make the case that just as VMware wants to manage the data center and cloud with its software, it wants to orchestrate delivery of applications to mobile end users too. It provides a range of virtual desktops (Horizon), mobile device management (AirWatch) and desktop virtualization software. VMware is getting hip too: It announced a partnership with Google and NVIDIA to bring hefty graphic processing power to virtual desktops and Chromebooks.
It makes sense that VMware would look to boost its EUC division - mobile represents a tectonic shift in the IT industry and AirWatch is a leading enterprise mobile management software provider. VMware is looking to extend its reach beyond just server, network and cloud management and get into mobile management in a big way.
One of the hottest buzzwords and topics of discussion among developers over the past year has been “containers”. Instead of slicing hardware servers into virtual machines, it virtualizes the operating system to run applications in “containers,” which allow for easier portability between virtual machines and even over to non-virtualized hardware. Some believe containers could become VM killers.
VMware, which still makes boatloads of money off of its vSphere compute virtualization software, took on that issue directly at VMWorld. The company said that the best way to manage containers is using VMware software. In doing so it announced partnerships with container management company Docker and Google, which has a newly open sourced project named Kubernetes for managing containers.
One of the most surprising moves at VMWorld to some was VMware’s announcement that it would support OpenStack in its cloud management software. For close followers of VMware, however, it may not have been a huge surprise -- VMware has been active in the OpenStack community since it purchased Nicira a few years ago and even more recently has been a contributor of code to the project.
But, like containers, OpenStack represented what some considered a potential headwind for VMware. OpenStack is an open source project for building clouds. VMware executives made the case that if IT wants to build OpenStack clouds, then they should be managed with VMware tools. The move is a strong vote of confidence for OpenStack, and it supports VMware’s marketing pitch that it will support customer choice for cloud management. What VMware doesn’t mention, but analysts have pointed out, is that VMware is making its own distribution of OpenStack that requires all VMware tools to run. Watching how VMware develops its OpenStack strategy will be an indicator of how the company plans to play in the broader cloud market.
VMware’s NSX network virtualization platform has become a hugely popular technology, but you wouldn’t have known that just from listening to the VMworld keynotes.
One year ago VMWorld 2013 could easily have been called NSXWorld instead given the amount of talk there was about network virtualization. Fast forward one year and there was a lot of customer interest in network virtualization, but a surprising lack of talk by VMware executives about NSX. Executives mentioned it briefly in the two days of keynotes. Meanwhile, the company’s cloud chief, end user computing head and software-defined data center executive each got extended speaking slots during the keynotes. There were a number of sessions about NSX, particularly as the technology applies to security, but Network World was expecting more from VMware related to NSX at VMWorld.
Customers seem very interested in this topic. For the second year in a row the NSX introduction was the most popular hands-on lab (a lab is where users can learn and play around with software in a test/sandbox environment at VMWorld).
VMware did have some news about NSX - -the company released Version 6.1. It played up the security angle by talking about the ability for the NSX software to create in effect virtual firewalls that allow for micro-segmentation of network traffic. And companies like Dell and F5 announced integrations with NSX.
But there just wasn’t a lot of pizazz about NSX at VMworld during the keynotes. Network World would have liked to have seen an even greater focus by executives on the important topic of network virtualization and the company’s strategy around NSX.
One of VMware’s latest products is vCloud Air, which is the company’s public cloud IaaS that was formerly named vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS). Company officials, including CEO Pat Gelsinger and Executive Vice President of Hybrid Cloud Bill Fathers, spent a lot of time at VMworld talking about vCloud Air and how it fits in with the company’s broader hybrid cloud strategy.
VMware even announced plans to launch database, object storage, mobile services and continuous integration options on vCloud Air. But the company didn’t say when those advancements would happen, nor did it say how much they would cost. VMware made a big deal about cloud at VMworld but the company was extremely light on details of how those plans will be rolled out. Until there are further details and these products are in the market, they’re still a wait and see from VMware.
Gartner analyst Mark Lockwood - who says in his Twitter bio that his views do not reflect Gartner - summed it up well with this point:
My number 1 question so far from #vmworld - "What will it cost?" Containers, OpenStack, vRealize, EVO, layering...— Mark Lockwood (@_mlockwood) August 25, 2014
So many of the booths at #VMworld are hugely gimmicky. Like a cheesy carnival. Does that work? Should I be wearing a robot outfit?— Jesse Proudman (@blueboxjesse) August 27, 2014
Jesse Proudman, founder and CTO of Blue Box, summed up the sentiment about the show floor in the above tweet. The expo floor of VMworld was crazy. There were hundreds of exhibitors each trying to give their pitch of why their product or service is the best.
It was overwhelming walking on to the show floor with a sea of bright colors, loud noises and a barrage of people. With each exhibitor trying to stand out, it made it so that not one did. There were Teslas being given away, iPad raffles and even one vendor - Veeam - giving away $2,000 cash. Vendors were literally paying people to just pay attention. And none of those gimmicks had anything to do with the products or services being offered.
It’s great that VMware has such a strong community of vendors willing to display at VMworld, but it is overwhelming to deal with it all.