A Dozen Takeaways from VMworld 2015

It’s somewhat surreal to consider that VMware drove common acceptance of virtual computing only a short 10-15 years ago, and now the rise of cloud computing has again completely altered the paradigm. Given our young software company is focused on compute portability, our CEO, Charles Wright, and I decided to take our first trip to VMworld last week, and we had a great conference. These are some things we took away:

  1. High energy: With 23,000+ attendees, there were people everywhere. It was a super active event with interactions all over the expo floor, in executive meetings, at parties, hotel lobbies, and just in general. We had countless conversations with MSPs, expo vendors, business VPs, consultants, sales people, architects, company founders and even some C-suite execs…you name it. Everyone just seemed open to connecting.
  2. Partner friendly with accessible executives: The event was somehow both partner and customer centric, which is tough to pull off… as a VMware ISV Partner, we had great access to events and resources. We were told in person, and in the public forum how much the partner community means to VMware, and it felt sincere. We just walked up to Ross Brown (SVP Worldwide Partners), after he spoke at the Partner Exchange, and dove right into the nuts and bolts of migrating live workloads from Hyper-V into vCloud Air.
  3. VMware came across as honest about their current place in the universe. They are still #1 in the virtual on-premise data center, but are admitting they were caught flat footed by the onslaught of AWS, and who wasn’t? It’s clear they are still correcting course and have put sights on Azure. The point was made if someone added up all the VMware and vCloud Director based private and hosted clouds, they have a lead on Azure, from a scale perspective. Time will tell how investments in vCloud Air and EMC Federation’s acquisition of Virtustream will play out.
  4. Hybridity is the hand being played, even if it’s still early. VMware has work to do unifying all their fragmented internal platforms, in addition to sorting out portability across competitive offerings.  We heard customers openly discussing workload portability possibilities from hypervisors to cloud, as well as for on-premise Open Stack solutions, and this is something VMware is working to reconcile (and should be).
  5. The Software Defined Data Center is a core initiative. I am not 100% sure what is meant by SDDC and the definition seems to be a bit of a moving target. One thing is for sure, VMware is pushing their on-premise Virtual networking product NSX as the linchpin of data center and cloud connectivity for reasons like ease of management, security and compute portability.
  6. Live vMotion migration over NSX. We saw Yanbing Li, Vice President and General Manager, Storage and Availability, demo a live vMotion migration from private server virtualization to a public vCloud Air deployment. This drew big applause from the crowd, as something that has apparently never been publicly demonstrated before.  From our perspective, ATADATA does this all day, plus across competitive platforms (ahem).
  7. vCloud Air as a viable public cloud alternative: Despite what I said in #4, lots of clients are still hugging servers and storage. I mean, there were countless hardware vendors at the expo (and already filling my in-box, with post event follow-ups). VMware has many thousands of loyal customers who are simply unwilling to look at the public cloud and are beholden to their products. These clients represent as fairly captive vCloud Air prospects and it sounds like VMware is starting to pick up some Azure customers/prospects, as the public space matures.
  8. The application is the network. This was just an awesome statement by Martin Casado, General Manager, Networking and Security: "We have said for so long that the network is the computer, but I would like to turn that around and say that the application has become the network," Casado said. "I don't mean that in some marketing way. In a very concrete way, the app has become a distributed system." From our perspective, this really resonates with our application centric view of the ecosystem here at ATADATA. It reflects the current trend in enterprise IT, where the application drives business success for an organization when it can be decoupled from the underlying infrastructure, and deployed as optimum for organizational needs, rather than as bound by traditional constraints. We think Martin just nailed it here.
  9. Lots of customers on lots of platforms. Wow, does VMware have lots of platforms and offerings to unify: ESX, ESXi, vSphere, vCloud Director, vCloud Air, etc. They also claim 350,000+ global customers and 5000+ partners in the ecosystem. However, as stated in #3, VMware is accepting current market conditions at face value and seems earnest in approaching technology partners to help resolve the challenges here.
  10. Solid networking opportunity: We enjoyed walking the floor and being regular attendees a lot more than schlepping our pitch at a booth. Friends, it was really fun meeting with customers and prospects on the move, rather than being chained to a booth for 4 days, and we still came away with a bounty of leads to follow up on.
  11. Rumors galore: Is VMware going to reverse acquire Federation partner EMC? Is Pat Gelsinger the next CEO of the combined group, and if that happens, will that company then merge with HP? We heard all of this and more. I didn’t learn anything concrete, other than to expect an announcement by the first week of October. Stay tuned.
  12. Great venue: we loved the San Francisco venue at the Moscone Center and the expo floor was every bit as lively as anything we have seen at other events. We had superb weather too…it was fantastic to take breaks outside, and meet clients at venues beyond the center. There were many hotels with free wi-fi around, plus all the nice restaurants within walking distance...we are bummed to hear that the venue is shifting for next year.

In closing, it was an outstanding partner and customer event, and we are looking forward to next year…even if it does take place back in Las Vegas.

Event, Life In TechIan Easton