As before, it’s quite an experience, even for a jaded event veteran like me. Like a desert blooming after a rainstorm, Moscone Center is transformed into a fascinating technology experience, and — then — we wait until next year for it to happen all over again.
I’m not capable of giving you a detailed report on everything that happened at VMworld — there’s way too much to cover.
Instead, I thought I’d share with you what stood out for me personally.
What A Great Place
Many of you have been to Las Vegas for big industry events. Let me just say it — San Francisco has its special charms: food, culture, people, weather, scenery, etc. I’m always reminded by what a nice place it can be if you just let it wash over you.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of time to be a tourist.
For most people, VMworld is an all-day slog from Sunday through Wednesday, and perhaps Thursday. If you’re involved in IT infrastructure, this is the big show of the year.
Yes, it’s about server virtualization. It’s also about networking, storage, servers, security, application frameworks, cloud management platforms, desktops, IT operations, etc. etc. As virtualization touches most everything in IT, VMworld has become a uniquely diverse show.
Given the technical nature of the show, it's pretty easy to pierce the marketing veil and talk to someone who knows their stuff.
I like that.
The event can take on the surreal nature of a circus occasionally. Smaller vendors in particular pull out all the stops to get noticed, and there’s no shortage of attention-getting theatrics at hand.
They come to learn about new technologies, brush up on their knowledge, hone their skills, and network with others who do pretty much the same thing for a living. My informal poll revealed that VMworld is most likely the only such event they’ll travel to all year.
These people can get deep quickly, because they use the products every working day.
Casual conversations quickly enter a black hole of specific version numbers, modules and behaviors from which there is no easy return.
But there’s more to it than that.
These people work for companies who have bet big on VMware technology. They’ve made a substantial personal career commitment as well. Many of them are part of various technical communities, where they help their peers.
The depth of engagement and passion you’ll see can be breathtaking. And it’s surprisingly easy to strike up a conversation with just about anyone you’ll meet.
Do you remember the old joke about eggs and bacon? The chicken was involved, but the pig was committed? These people are most definitely committed.
VMworld has historically been where VMware (and other vendors) have made big announcements, so there’s usually plenty of news and new technologies to ingest, debate and evaluate. Geek food for the intellectually hungry.
Sometimes you can eat too much. Attendees put in long, hard hours at this event. After three technical deep dives and a HoL (hands-on lab) or two, people can look pretty dazed towards the end of the day.
And, despite evening entertainment, they’re up bright and early for that 8AM session. Nobody wants to miss out on the opportunity to cram in just one more session.
There are so many rich and diverse choices of things to do that figuring out your schedule is itself a major undertaking. And, for people like me, there were some tough decisions about where to spend my scant free time.
The theme of the show was “No Limits”, which — as event themes go — pretty much captured the mood in the crowd. People were generally ecstatic what they’d been able to achieve with the technology, and saw that they could do even more with what’s becoming available.
Not that there weren’t criticisms and “helpful suggestions” aplenty on what VMware could be doing better/faster. As VMware’s headquarters is just down the road in Palo Alto, just about every VMwarer who could make the event was there to listen and learn from customers and partners, including many of my colleagues. It’s all-hands-on-deck.
Nothing like a development engineer getting direct feedback from someone who’s using their product.
As a long-term industry watcher, I do have to admit my employer is doing an exceptional job of staying ahead of industry trends. The real religion at VMware is “help customers” — even if that means setting off in somewhat new directions.
One clear example was the announcement of the VMware Integrated OpenStack — a forthcoming distribution that has been genetically enhanced with VMware technology.
While I’m sure a few purists will find reason to object, I think the more pragmatic will find it an attractive new option for those IT groups taking a hard look at OpenStack.
Along similar lines, an announcement of container collaboration with Docker, Google and Pivotal — helping to make containers more usable in enterprise settings.
Another example was the flurry of announcements from VMware’s EUC group: a new suite, Airwatch integration, a new partnership with Google and Nvidia — my, what a difference a year makes.
And I think it’s fair to say that — for many people — the new shiny thing was EVO:RAIL and a preview of EVO:Rack
We all know that converged infrastructure is rapidly growing in popularity. In exchange for constrained choices, the customer gets a better (and more predictable!) experience. First VCE and its competitors, and then single-module vendors such as SimpliVity and Nutanix, among others.
EVO:RAIL is best described as a re-integration of VMware technology around known hardware and an extremely simplified experience. Server partners build specific hardware for EVO:RAIL, add EVO software, and take the resulting product to market.
Literally overnight, several server vendors now have a direct answer for things like Nutanix. You need to see the installation and management demo vids to get a real appreciation on just how simple the team has made the experience. Hey, even I could run this stuff. And don’t underestimate the inherent appeal of an all-VMware environment.
The hardware examples on display at the EVO Zone were very cool — a 2U crammed with 4 server blades and 16 disk slots. If the sales and support model executes as expected, I think it’s going to be a big winner.
And there's much more to discuss when EVO:RACK becomes available.
On To Storage — vVols
As vVols are now in beta, you saw a number of vendors demoing and running sessions on the new capabilities. Every session I saw on the topic was packed, so there’s definitely strong interest. I can only hope that — as before — strong interest precedes strong adoption.
For those organizations who had converged roles (storage, server, network, virtualization, etc.) they saw themselves being able to adopt the vVol model reasonably quickly — and planned to go in that direction.
However, those IT teams that segmented along classic lines clearly could see the potential difficulty from an organizational and operational perspective.
Fortunately, there seems to be no shortage of IT groups who have either adopted the converged model, or are well along in the process.
On one hand, VSAN was old news at this year’s VMworld. Everyone now knows about it, etc. — it’s not the new, shiny thing. That being said, for a storage product that went GA last March, there was a visible groundswell of undeniably solid support.
We ran a number of user feedback sessions, and the results were pretty consistent. Great product. Does what it says. Radically simple user experience. Surprising performance. Amazingly robust and solid. Planning to use much more of it, etc.
And pay close attention to your hardware choices, especially the IO controllers :)
On top of that, we ran a number of roadmap sessions, and people could clearly see what would be available before too long. The development team is moving fast; building on its proven architecture. All good.
Thanks to labors of tens of thousands of hard working people, the country was changed for the better.
I can't help thinking about the parallels when I look at the people who attend VMworld.
Tens of thousands of hard-working IT professionals, just quietly going about their daily business of creating infrastructure that transforms the world around them.
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