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VMworld shows a VMware in flux

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VMworld this year is all about the changing of the guard at VMware(s vmw) —  in more ways than one. This is a company in transition as its core server virtualization business continues to get commoditized. Here are 5 ways VMware showed itself to be a company in transition this week.

1: CEO swap-out 

Most obviously, the conference showcased the passing of the baton from CEO Paul Maritz to new CEO Pat Gelsinger.

The thinking is that Maritz, a software guy, was long on vision and strategic smarts and, of course in taking on Microsoft(s msft), where he had worked for years. Gelsinger after years at Intel(s intc) then at VMware parent company EMC is viewed as a hardware and an operations guy. A skeptic might say he’s there not to design the trains but make sure they run on time. And profitably.

2: Morphing into an open source citizen

VMware’s decision to pursue a Gold membership in the OpenStack Foundation, as first reported by GigaOM, could mean one of two things.

First, it could be just a way of extending Nicira’s current participation in the foundation where it furnished key parts of the networking piece of the stack. (VMware’s acquisition of Nicera is now complete.)Or second, it could signal a broader, more open-source friendly stance by VMware writ large. The company after all, is pushing Cloud Foundry as an open source platform as a service to run on any and all cloud infrastructure. (Conspiracy theorists posit a third option: That VMware still views OpenStack as a threat to its cloud aspirations and thus wants to keep an eye on it from the inside. Keep your enemies close, and all.)

But that seems pretty far fetched, even for paranoids like myself.

3: BYOD remains a big opportunity

A big part of Tuesday’s keynote was dedicated to VMware’s take on solving the bring your own device problem afflicting enterprises. This is an area where the company lags competitor Citrix(s ctrx). VMware demonstrated how IT can deliver device images managed via its Horizon Suite, which it says gives users one place to access their data, applications and desktops while providing IT a single console to manage all those access and security policies.

BYOD is a hot button issue since the steps many companies take — shutting off Siri on the iPhone or blocking Dropbox access — take away the very features that users want from their devices in the first place. That means they’ll probably just keep using personal devices for work but won’t tell anyone.

Vittorio Viarengo, VMware’s VP of marketing who blogged about his demo here, also coined what seemed to be a new phrase for BYOD — SYOM — spend your own money. He’s onto something there.

VMware also demonstrated out how Mirage working with VMware View can help ease the pain of Windows migrations — allowing them to happen without disturbing  the user.

“That,” said analyst Dana Gardner, principal at Interarbor Solutions, “makes BYOD and the Microsoft Windows migration mess manageable.”

4: Memory tax repealed

VMware needs to be more sensitive — or at least less tone deaf — to customer and partner needs.

It’s no accident that, as one of his first official acts, Gelsinger nuked the hugely unpopular VRAM or “memory “tax” VMware imposed last year. That announcement got more applause than anything else. Under VRAM, VMware started charging for the use of vSphere on every socket of a physical server and another fee on the amount of virtual memory used by the hypervisor. It went over like a lead balloon.

Gelsinger acknowledged that VMware had “created a 4-letter dirty word in VRAM.”  From now on, there will be “one easy [price] model, per CPU, per socket, all one model, easy to use,” he said.

The boneheaded move — essentially a price hike — reverberates to this day and gave vSphere customers reason to check out Microsoft(s msft) Hyper-V, which is getting better by the week, Xen or KVM as alternatives.  It’s true that base-level hypervisors and server virtualization is commoditized, but it’s still an important building block that can be parlayed into sales of higher-level and more profitable management tools.

5: Server virtualization biz continues to fade

It’s an old story but bears repeating: VMware retains huge market share in server virtualization but that market is saturated and commoditized.  So it was natural that much VMworld discussion centered around network and storage virtualization. Toward that end, VMware announced availability of vCloud Suite 5.1 which it pitched as the foundation of a new generation of software-defined data centers.

VMware also talked up Nicira and its SDN expertise, but it’s still unclear if and how Nicira’s OpenFlow strategy and VMware’s own vXLAN SDN world view will fit together.

The company’s aggressive goal is to get enterprise data centers — which Gartner(s it) estimates are about 60 percent virtualized now — to the 90 percent mark. Servers are just the tip of the iceberg there. Networking gear — switches, routers — and storage all need to make that leap as well.

4 Responses to “VMworld shows a VMware in flux”

  1. Reblogged this on Virtualized Geek and commented:
    I’m going to keep preaching “2013 the year of the commodity hypervisor.” VMware did and is talking about the areas they had to move into. They’ve milked the hypervisor as much as possible and needs to leverage their skill and IP to fight the management suites of the other big providers.

    This meant embracing OpenStack and playing nice with KVM, Xen and Hyper-V. I promise that these solutions will be good enough in 2013. Microsoft is throwing Hyper-v into Windows 8. Which could be an area of opportunity for VMware.

    Which leads to the discussion on client side virtualization where Citrix is constantly schooling VMware. I like VMware solutions on whole but XenDesktop is a better product than View.

    I still need to watch the keynote from to day but I don’t believe virtualization will save BYOD. We need real enterprise applications on mobile devices that integrate with each individual platform. I need my customers to use Siri but secure my data. This is a challenging problem but I look to smart people like to folks at VMware to solve it. It’s been a long time since the wowed me and VMware is smart enough to wow.

      • I thought the announcement on the death of vRAM entitlement was a tad uncomfortable. It was a kind of “we shot ourselves in the foot” now cheer the fact that we’ve bandaged it moment. I was extremely impressed with the vCloud Hadoop demo. It shows the strength and potential of VMware’s vision around software controlled data centers. They will need to continue to add this intelligence to their management suite. How this plays with OpenStack is yet to be seen. It seems like a collision course.

        From the hypervisor front I was also impressed with enhanced vMotion and their virtual SAN solution for SMB’s. The ideas are pretty innovative and takes into account a whole part of the market they kind of ignored.

        I’m not too excited about VDI in general. I’ve shared my thoughts in the past. For those needing VDI they will buy VDI. For the rest of us trying to figure out BYOD we’ve decided VDI isn’t the solution. It may be a filler solution until something better comes along for mobile devices.

        I’m pretty excited about VXLAN. It’s the most enterprise relevant part of the whole SDN movement I’ve seen so far. The demo of extending your data center virtually to public clouds using the same address space was network geek nip.

        The keynotes have been pretty much deep enough for my role as an Architect. I’m leaving the deep dive stuff up to the folks that do virtualization as part of their everyday jobs.