VMworld 2013: Enterprise Is Crawling Toward 21st Century IT

VMworld 2013 was an enormous success for VMware. It attracted 22,500 attendees from all over the world. Its sheer magnitude cements VMworld’s spot among the biggest enterprise IT infrastructure conferences. In my view it is THE EVENT OF THE YEAR for anyone involved in IT operations, whether they are a technology provider, a service provider or an SI partner.

This year’s theme was a continuation of what the industry has promised enterprises for last two or so years: a software-defined datacenter (which further helps in achieving the goal of Converged Infrastructure). It’s a beautiful vision where the use of infrastructure is abstracted from hardware through a software abstraction layer. The ultimate goal is to make it easier to rip and replace underlying hardware without changing datacenter management technologies and/or make heterogeneous hardware in any stack play well together through a common API-based consumption/management. This vision bodes well for lower TCO on the datacenter operational governance side and can help mainstream enterprises. To take full advantage of a software defined datacenter, applications/workloads need to be aware of the utilization of the underlying infrastructure through APIs, and it can shrink or expand that footprint based on workload needs with minimal, or zero, human intervention. Having said that, enterprises can get some basic benefits, especially from the management and operations side, before applications can be retrofitted or made aware of resource consumption for auto-scaling.

Here are the main themes I observed at VMworld:

VMware Announcements

VMware unveiled updates to a number of products at VMware. Here are some of the major ones:

  • NSX: The most noticeable and disruptive announcement, especially for established vendors, was on the software defined network side. NSX made a splash at VMworld 2013. NSX at its core has Nicira technology and it is now integrated with vSphere 5.5 and vCloud Networking Suite. It’ll be interesting to see how Cisco and VCE handle these announcements and what they say to their customers and partners.
  • vSAN: vSAN is an effort to put an abstraction layer on top of management APIs constructed by several storage vendors – the top eight, in fact. vSAN takes local storage, such as magnetic media, SSDs and PCIe flash, in a vSphere cluster and turns it into a big pool, which is used when you create virtual machines – creating a “container” (proto-vVol) for each VM.  These containers are then replicated (as the protection method) using two or more copies on other servers in the cluster. It will be generally available in first half of 2014. All storage vendors need to stay on top of these advancements.
  • vSphere 5.5: vSphere 5.5 promises two times the performance and scale improvements. The 2 TB limit for VMDKs is increased dramatically to 64 TB. Beside the performance changes, there are several changes on compute layer side, including management and governance.

Along with these updates, VMware made several smaller announcements that affect partners and end customers. Slowly but surely, VMware is moving in the right direction to serve enterprises in the new era of IT operations (ITaaS).

VMware is also making progress with its PaaS story. While VMware’s PaaS plans still rely heavily on Cloud Foundry (Spring Source + nodeJS + Rails), other services, such as Pivotal, a new EMC subsidiary, are starting new PaaS services based on VMware’s initiatives.

One area I don’t see VMware jumping into anytime soon is SaaS, with exception of monitoring as a service like offerings.

Industry Trends

And while VMworld is a great place for VMware to showcase its latest and greatest, it’s also a haven to see all of the latest trends in the industry.

One thing I validated at VMworld is that all new, greenfield applications, regardless of whether they are inside a traditional enterprise or a fast-paced B2C company, are written 100 percent for cloud from the start. That’s a major shift considering the trillions of dollars invested in IT legacy gear over the last few decades. In enterprises, there is lot more legacy to take care of than net new developments (software products). Hence there is a need to strike a balance between moving forward with a new breed of technologies while bringing some of old stack along for a ride – you can’t avoid it completely. And this reality takes us to the hybrid cloud where private cloud footprints can work hand in hand with public clouds and dedicated hardware.

Meanwhile, the Facebooks and Googles of the world are setting the standards on scale and performance, and enterprise technology providers are pushed to meet such standards; a model that is giving birth to innovations in compute, storage and networking. In fact, the cloud is conceived from the sheer scale and performance requirements and standards set by enterprises like Google, Yahoo and Facebook.

Another observation from VMworld is that hybrid cloud rules. Pure public cloud, while great for some applications, is not a fit for many types of workloads enterprises have, and pure on-premise private clouds often ignore CAPEX issues. To get the best of the both worlds, including security, control and the exploitation of spikes on demand, enterprises are moving to hybrid cloud solutions where there is some baseline level of capacity that workloads demand and spikes can be rented in the public cloud.

Today, converged infrastructure-related innovations are demand (or workload) driven; storage is shining with flash behind it; networking is getting more programmable by day; and compute is being made easy, beefy and robust.

All of these advancements at VMworld were great, but there was one major piece missing from the puzzle: developers; the young, emerging generation. It seemed like all developers have been sucked into either highly scalable B2C companies or they are busy writing iOS and Android applications at a micro level. This is a worrisome trend for enterprise technology providers, especially those that provide enterprise applications…

I stopped by HP booth to look at the HP Moonshot server.

And here are some interesting video links from the event:

Rackspace Interviews:
Rackspace CMO Rick Jackson

Rackspace Director of Strategy Scott Sanchez

Rackspace Chief Technology Officer of Global Enterprise Solutions Sean Wedige

SiliconAngle videos:

VMworld TV:

Be sure to check out all of our coverage of VMworld 2013.