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5 things I learned at VMworld

VMworld is a big event, comprised of companies and individuals spanning almost every aspect of IT. It can be a lot to digest, but it also can be a good barometer of where IT is today and where it’s going. A couple days removed from the show, I gave some thought to the trends I noticed and the insightful discussions I had. Here are five things I came away from VMworld thinking.

  1. The window is closing (closed?) on fundings for platforms as a service. I had this discussion with a few people this week, and I believe it’s true. DotCloud, AppFog and CloudBees might represent the last hurrahs of heavily VC-funded PaaS offerings. Consolidation has already started, and existing platforms such as Heroku (s crm), Microsoft (s msft), Red Hat (s rht) and Engine Yard are firming up their offerings. Oh, and there’s VMware’s own Cloud Foundry, which has a small, but innovative, ecosystem already forming around it. I think we’re good.
  2. The future is about applications. VMware’s (s vmw) Paul Maritz said it in his keynote. Steve Herrod introduced a slew of new technologies for delivering next-generation applications better across all sorts of devices. With PaaS funding dried up, innovators and VCs will have to look up the stack past application platforms to the applications themselves. But it’s the future, not the present, at least in mainstream IT. The show floor at VMworld and some of the conversations I overheard made it clear that we’re still way off from the level of IT automation and operating system agnosticism that will help companies really focus their IT attention on applications.
  3. Dell (s dell) will be just fine. A couple weeks ago, my colleague Stacey Higginbotham presented a fairly dire outlook for Dell, but I’m not so sure I agree. Look past the tough road ahead in consumer devices, and you see an enterprise IT future where Dell seems to just get it. Look how many servers it’s selling into webscale data centers. Granted, they’re partners now, but Cloudera COO Kirk Dunn made a couple of interesting observations about Dell during a lengthy discussion I had with him, including that he’s surprised how many new Dell webscale servers he’s seen installed even in traditionally HP (s hpq) or IBM (s ibm) shops. Look at its recent forward-thinking software acquisitions and partnerships, including Boomi, Joyent, OpenStack and Cloudera. Look at the trio of IaaS clouds it’s going to launch over the next year. I’m not worried about Dell.
  4. Solid-state drives are poised to take over the data center. Everywhere you turned at VMworld, there was a solid-state storage vendor — Fusion-io (s fio) , Pure Storage, Nimbus Data Systems, Nimble Storage and flash supplier Samsung. Pure Storage CEO Scott Dietzen told me flash will replace hard disk drives as the dominant storage medium within 10 years. He’s probably right. Sales are ramping up, prices are coming down and virtualized workloads now outnumber physical workloads. They’ll need SSDs to perform at the level mission-critical applications require, so look for flash vendors to pick some serious traction as storage refresh cycles roll around.
  5. PCs will join hard disk drives on scrap heap? I pose this as a question because I feel like was supposed to be a theme of the VMworld show, but I’m not entirely convinced. Yes, consumerization is real and mobile devices will become more prevalent, but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily replace desktops and laptops. We might work on the go more often now, but white collar workers stil spend lots of time at desk, and 27 inches, 4 cores and a keyboard still rule in terms of efficiency. Of course, VMware’s vision, and that of numerous other exhibitors, is one of virtual desktops replacing our overpowered machines of today. Only, we’ve been talking about VDI forever, and there hasn’t been a whole lot of movement. But maybe that’s changing.

4 Responses to “5 things I learned at VMworld”

  1. Derrick, earlier this summer we ran a poll of IT pros at Citrix Synergy San Francisco and found similar results to what you learned at VMWorld. Physical desktops aren’t going away – in fact, only four percent of respondents said they’re going fully virtual in 2011, compared to 67% who expect a long-term mix of physical and virtual desktops.

    But while physical desktops will stick around, desktop virtualization is starting to gain significant momentum in the enterprise. 59% said their company is in the process of planning to deploy virtual desktops this year, and 20% of all desktops are expected to go virtual in 2012. We created an infographic from the findings, feel free to check it out here:

    Rich Bentley

  2. Re #1, you should have included Morph Labs. They just announced a $5m Series C round of funding raising total to $12m. Re #4, totally agree on solid state drives in the dc. On a personal level, my new MacBook Air with an SSD boots in 8 seconds and app seek time is zero. Never going back to HDDs.