Thoughts from VMworld 2012 (San Francisco)
Now that the US event is over, I wanted to jot down some thoughts before they burn away like the San Francisco fog that greeted us each morning.
- The audience was more diverse than in years past - While VMworld always draws a huge group of infrastructure-centric people, this year had a greater diversity of new groups in attendance, even if only around the fringes. CloudFoundry attracted people focused on building PaaS platforms and new applications. Nicira attracted people focused on networking, OpenStack and various open-source projects.
- The audience was less dense than in years past - This is not a commentary on people's intellects, but rather their shrinking waistlines. I was pleasantly surprised to see a good number of friends and colleagues that had lost significant amounts of weight since last year's show. It's encouraging to see them taking control of their lives and I'm hopefully that I'll continue to be able to see them in good health at events in the future.
- Not many of the new technologies were attention grabbing - As I walked the fringes of the showfloor, where interesting new start-ups often demonstrate their new toys, there wasn't a long list of things that really wow'd me. I'm biased about XtremIO (all flash storage); I like the way Piston Cloud is trying to differentiate their OpenStack stack for the Enterprise; I always enjoy the insight about new segments of the networking industry in talking with Arista; it's good to see the PaaS progress with CloudFoundry. Bromium wasn't on display at the event, but they were nearby and I had a good talk about their future plans.
- The announcements were not headline grabbing - I had several discussions and dinners with "clouderati" people that seemed to be disappointed that VMware did not announce a public cloud offering (the rumored "Project Zephyr") or new open-source spinoffs or make soul-crushing proclamations against rival vendors. Instead, they announced pricing changes, bundling changes and some incremental new technologies that involved internal or external integrations. They also formalized their change in CEO from Paul Maritz to Pat Gelsinger.
- The announcements should have been headline grabbing - While VMware did announce several incremental technology changes across the portfolio, the focus was much more on how businesses will consume IT services. They removed the pricing barrier ("vRAM, vTAX") which made companies reconsider virtualizing their most critical applications. They bundled the plethora of applications (vCloud Suite) which provides the framework for operationally managing cloud environments. They highlighted new technologies (DynamicOps, Nicira) which will allow companies to integrate VMware environments with non-VMware environments without wholesale changes to their existing IT environments. And they showed more holistic progress on a blueprint to help companies deal with the challenges of mobile workforces and mobile devices (eg. "BYOD"). Are all these technologies perfect? Absolutely not. Many of them still need to prove themselves in the marketplace. But it did feel like VMware was shifting their focus from point-technologies to more of a solutions-focused approach that would let them have more complete conversations with their customers.
- VMware still left many unanswered questions - (a) How will Nicira and DynamicOps be integrated into the vCloud Suite? (b) How will VMware engage with open-source communities (OpenStack, ONF, CloudFoundry)? (c) Is the vCloud Service Evaluation the beginning of larger public cloud offerings? (d) Is VMware making end-user computing more or less complicated?
- Many technologists were confused, but also curious - Technology buzz typically has a 3-5 year shelf life before the hard-core technologist begin to become bored with it and seek new things to stimulate their curiosity. The feeling I got was that server virtualization and capacity automation had reached it's shelf-life. The technology is still extremely relevant, but it wasn't capturing the interests of technologists. They are now trying to figure how to move up the stack, whether that's in automation, application frameworks, software-define or something else.
- Many technologists are available - In our industry, there's often a belief that the grass is greener on the other side. With that in mind, I lost count of how many discussions I had with people seeking career advice (career paths??) and searching for new opportunities. I suspect that some of this is due to the technology shifts that are happening around us, but I also believe that some of it is caused by the "geek rock-star" mentality that happens when someone becomes recognized online and wants more of that visibility. Either way, the number of people (from all companies and regions) that were inquiring about new opportunities was much larger than I ever remember in the past.
- The "open cloud" crowd is stil debating definitions - In parallel to VMworld was the "CloudOpen" event in San Diego, hosted by the Linux Foundation. Given that this should have been an event dominated by like-minded open-source enthusiasts, I was shocked to see my Twitter stream filled within people complaining about "cloud washing" and "what is a truly open cloud?" discussions. I'm not sure if some people just feel a need to bash everything, or if this is a by-product of the fact that there are trillions of $$ at stake and companies are trying to position themselves in the most favorable way to capture marketshare (or just mindshare).
- In chaos comes opportunity... - The good news for companies that consume IT is that they are getting more and more value for their dollar with each new technology advancement. For companies selling IT services (directly or indirectly), the world is becoming more and more complex and chaotic. And in chaos, comes opportunity. It just requires people to look at things from new angles sometimes.
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