It was reported that sometime over the past weekend the number of tweets and blogs about VMworld exceeded Plankk’s limit (postulated by blogger Marvin Plankk, now confined to an obscure institution in an unidentified state with more moose than people), and quietly coalesced into an undifferentiated blob of digital entropy as a result of too many semantically identical postings online at the same time. So this leaves the field clear for me to write the first VMworld post in the new cycle.

This year was my first time at VMworld, and it left a profound impression – while the energy and activity among the 17,000 attendees, exhibitors and VMware itself would have been impressive in any context, the underlying evidence of a fundamental transformation of the IT landscape was even more so. The theme this year was “clouds,” but to some extent I think themes of major shows like this are largely irrelevant. The theme serves as an organizing principle for the communications and promotion of the show, but the technology content of the show, particularly as embodied by its exhibitors and attendees, is based on what is actually being done in the real world. If the technology was not already there, the show might have to find another label. Keeping the cart firmly behind the horse, this activity is being driven by real IT problems, real investments in solutions, and real technology being brought to market. So to me the revelation of the show was not in the fact that VMware called it “cloud,” but that the world is really thinking “cloud.”

Ahh, cloud … that magic word that hath the power to charm the wild beasts and the investors in their lairs (if they in fact be different creatures). When I say the world is really thinking cloud, I’m being very inclusive about the use of the word cloud. Looking at a number of the new and revamped solutions on the show floor, it is apparent that what is really going on is the fundamental problems facing IT has not changed, but the addition of a ubiquitous, highly standardized and mature virtualization layer for the presentation server, storage and (WIP) network resources has added a powerful new ingredient to the palette of solutions. Some offerings were truly novel, taking advantage of the combination of virtual containers, almost unconstrained network access and the inherent parallelism of many new environments to deliver a cloud experience as the purists would posit cloud. Others were not as novel, merely applying a cloud label to the clever and usable integration of previously very complex to integrate and manage solutions.

But that is a VERY big “merely.” In fact, it is the difference between hype and reality, the point at which cloud begins the transition from concept to production reality. A wave of these offerings in the form of integrated virtual desktop services, infrastructure services, storage, security and other cloud service offerings, appeared at this year’s VMworld, offering one of the strongest proof points yet that the concept of cloud can be applied to the legacy problems that haunt the typical Infrastructure and Operations group as well as the emerging new world of hyper-scale web environments.

Do the amazing energy around VMworld and the near ubiquity of VMware’s solution mean that they are the anointed king, and that no challenge will be brooked? Of course not – the one consistent truth of the high-tech market is that opportunity attracts competition. VMware has an amazingly strong position now, and their product has revolutionized the way we think about deploying and managing resources, but the constant challenges from other players with big stakes in the technology landscape, including Microsoft, Citrix, Oracle, and others, will guarantee continued competition and innovation, expanding options for IT consumers and revenues for the suppliers.

And VMworld will remain a “must attend” if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of the revolution. See you in 2011.