VMworld – Reflections on a Transformational Event
A group of us just published an analysis of VMworld (Breaking Down VMworld), and I thought I’d take this opportunity to add some additional color to the analysis. The report is an excellent synthesis of our analysis, the work of a talented team of collaborators with my two cents thrown in as well, but I wanted to emphasize a few additional impressions, primarily around storage, converged infrastructure, and the overall tone of the show.
First, storage. If they ever need a new name for the show, they might consider “StorageWorld” – it seemed to me that just about every other booth on the show floor was about storage. Cloud storage, flash storage, hybrid storage, cheap storage, smart storage, object storage … you get the picture.[i] Reading about the hyper-growth of storage and the criticality of storage management to the overall operation of a virtualized environment does not drive the concept home in quite the same way as seeing 1000s of show attendees thronging the booths of the storage vendors, large and small, for days on end. Another leading indicator, IMHO, was the “edge of the show” booths, the cheaper booths on the edge of the floor, where smaller startups congregate, which was also well populated with new and small storage vendors – there is certainly no shortage of ambition and vision in the storage technology pipeline for the next few years.
Converged infrastructure was another clear standout. As we discuss in our report, VMware’s introduction of EVO is a milestone, and will accelerate the acceptance of pre-integrated solution stacks of all flavors. But the analytical prose again fails to capture the energy – the booths of the two still shiny pioneers of hyperconverged infrastructure, Nutanix and Simplivity, were, to put it in simple terms, mobbed.
But VMware has stuck a major oar in the converged infrastructure waters with its new EVO: Rail offering, and VMware’s community is taking notice. The “EVO Zone”, a space given over to all of the EVO partners – pretty much standing room only at the back-to-back presentations of EVO. While I have reservations about how any of the EVO partners will differentiate themselves in the face of a very strict set of configuration rules dictated by VMware, differentiation may not in fact be needed. Many of these products will move through channels where customer relationships trump differentiation. Another factor to consider is that the VMware specification essentially lowers the R&D bar, and, as was evident from some of names on display in the EVO Zone, smaller ODMs can now sell head to head against the Tier-1 server vendors (who, with the exception of Dell) were conspicuously absent from the EVO Zone.[ii] My considered opinion is that HP, IBM/Lenovo and Cisco need to decide if they want to play, despite considerable investments of their own in CI offerings – the last thing they want is to have a new wave of volume ODMs like Inspur and SuperMicro competing on a suddenly leveled technology playing field for a rapidly growing segment of their customer base.
Energy – the best way to describe the event. I’ve been going to lots of trade shows for more decades than I care to count, and the year’s VMworld stands out in my mind as being high-energy in a general sense. I know this is a very soft and qualitative assessment, but the sessions seemed to be well attended, the exhibit floor was mobbed, and VMware had a lot of interesting stuff to communicate. An analyst from another firm commented that he thought that the show was short on real innovations, and that he got a sense that the company as setting the stage for something in the future. I couldn’t disagree more – we are always setting the stage for the future in this business, but at this year’s show VMware dropped a major bunch of stuff on its community and clearly outlined the developing shape of its next couple of years of consolidation of its position as the premier provider of virtualized environments for the emerging age of the customer.
[i] One of my personal highlights of the show was touring the exhibit floor with my colleague Henry Baltazar, storage guru extraordinaire. Henry brings a mind-boggling depth of knowledge to the storage realm, and after spending a couple of hours with him I felt like I almost understood some of te nuances of modern storage.
[ii] The partners in the EVO zone included Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Inspur, Net One Systems Co. and Supermicro as far as my scribbled notes show.