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Who is VMware in 2013? – A Company in Transition

Looking forward to VMworld 2013 – some pre-show thoughts...

It's that time of year again. Time for the industry's most influential infrastructure gathering, VMworld. And, as has become an annual occurrence, I jot down some pre-show thoughts about the event (2012, 2011).

Who is VMware in 2013?
While Pat Gelsinger was introduced at the 2012 VMworld as the new CEO, replacing Paul Maritz, the themes and strategy were still very much inline with Maritz's prior plans. Since then Gelsinger has narrowed the focus of the company, shed many products and begun putting his leadership team in place. So I'll be very interested to see how VMware gets presented this year. Gelsinger has not yet named a new CTO or CMO, so this year's event should very much be a representation of how he wants to present the company to the world.



VMware is definitely a company in transition. Server virtualization is a mature market. The role of the desktop is being impacted by smart, mobile devices and end-user expectations are rapidly changing. Open-source projects such as OpenStack and Hadoop are forcing existing VMware customers to rethink their longer term IT strategies, and the impact that public cloud has on the entire market is changing the economics of our industry.

In 2013, VMware is a virtualization company. VMware is a networking company. VMware is a storage company. VMware is a IT Operations Management company. VMware is a Cloud Service Provider. That's a wide net to cast into the marketplace, spanning across a variety of delivery and economic models. As I've heard a few VMware employees say, "we used to be Switzerland, but now we're Switzerland with a big artillery supply"

Software All the Things
Software-Defined Data Center. SDDC. OK, now that we have that out of the way, let's see if it actually means anything. I'm definitely seeing market demand for more and more technology to become "software-defined", whether that means a virtual-appliance form-factor, or better control via APIs, or plugins/packs/manifests/recipes for popular automation tools such as Chef, Puppet, Ansible, etc. What I'm curious to see is how VMware plans to architect the SDDC such that it can be viewed as a holistic Data Center, or even a holistic lifecycle manager for applications. We've seen lots of pieces, but this will be the opportunity to showcase if it's ready to move from pieces or "suites" to a more comprehensive delivery mechanism.

To me, the right story would go something like this:

  • Problem: IT is always faced with a balancing act between "go faster" and "spend less". In the past, "spent less" weighed more heavily, but that equation has changed and now "go faster" is the dominant need of the business.
  • Solution: Here is the holistic vision and execution of delivering "go faster" infrastructure that can be scaled, managed and monitored.
  • Solution: Here is the simplicity of how that "go faster" infrastructure can programmatically interface with application-deployment systems.


Networking - The New Frontier
Beyond Gelsinger's overall "State-of-VMware" message, the "Network Virtualization" (a.ka. "Nicira") announcements will be 1 or 1a, along with the vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) announcements. The OpenFlow-centric story from Nicira has changed quite a bit since the acquisition, with the focus now on "Network Virtualization" and how the network needs to evolve just like the server world did with ESX/vSphere. Right now the SDN market is still highly fragmented, but there is also some very interesting innovation happening as well. I'm interested to see if VMware takes an open, partner-enabling approach to the networking community (like they did with ESX/vCenter) or if they take a closed approach (like they did with vCloud Director). We've already seen integration with OpenStack and CloudStack, but it will also be interesting to hear how companies and customers can integrate with NSX (northbound and southbound). It will also be interesting to see how they bridge the open-source world of Nicira (Open vSwitch, OpenStack Neutron (formerly Quantum) with their existing vSwitch/ESX/vSphere/vCD technologies.

We Built a Cloud
The old rules said that vendors were vendors, channel partners were channel partners and service providers were service providers. But the game has changed and the old rules are not relevant anymore.

Cloud happens!

Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, Adobe, WebEx, Salesforce and many others offer their software via cloud services that they own and operate. VMware is the latest to join the game being played by these news rules. The challenge is balancing this new delivery and business model with partnerships and business models of the past. It's impossible to avoid all conflicts, so it will be interesting to watch how not only VMware positions vCloud Hybrid Services (vCHS), but also how the partner businesses react and adjust. This is a long-term bet by VMware. We know that Gelsinger has the stomach for this level of change as he's succeeded through previous market changes, but will the rest of the market wait while VMware learns to play in this new game?

[Full Disclosure: I am attending VMworld 2013 on a pass that was generously provided by VMware through their vExpert Bloggers program. I'm thankful to John Troyer (@jtroyer) and the team at VMware that continues to support that excellent program.]

More Stories By Brian Gracely

A 20 year technology veteran, Brian Gracely is VP of product management at Virtustream. He holds a CCIE #3077 and an MBA from Wake Forest University.

Throughout his career Brian has led Cisco, NetApp, EMC and Virtustream into emerging markets and through technology transitions. An active participant in the virtualization and cloud computing communities, his industry viewpoints and writing can also be found on Twitter @bgracely, on his blog Clouds of Change and his podcast The Cloudcast (.net). He is a VMware vExpert and was named a "Top 100" Cloud Computing blogger by Cloud Computing Journal.

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