I have been attending various VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) and VMworld events since around 1996. Typically, I prefer to attend PEX over VMworld. The number of attendees is significantly smaller and access to the VMware brain trust is easier. There is usually a good mix of NDA roadmaps and decent technical information. The Solutions Exchange floor is less crowded and the vendors are able to spend more time with you. The hands on labs are the same top-quality as VMworld, but typically with no lines.
I did not attend VMworld 2013, but I did attend PEX 2014 last week. Sadly, I was a little bit underwhelmed again this year, as I was last year too. There was no real feeling of innovation. No buzz. Just ho-hum. There seemed to be fewer exhibitors on the Solutions Exchange floor as compared to previous years. I did have some very educational conversations with some vendors that I will detail later.
Despite all of the drama around Veeam and Nutanix being missing in action, there was no mention of VMTurbo. The people at the Cisco booth had nothing about Whiptail or Insieme.
The push is bundled suites of software, which will offer a single management point and a common interface. But many parts of these suites will likely end up as shelf-ware to many. Let’s face it, many enterprises will need to change significantly in order to fully utilize the vCloud suite. If it is not a top down directive, either the networking silo or storage silo is going to protest over lack of control. Try explaining to network engineers that you need a pool of VLANs and associated IP addresses that will be out of their control and probably will be difficult to integrate with the many manual processes that are used. Try telling a storage administrator that we can now do self-service provisioning of a storage array, including all of the parts in the middle, like zoning and masking. Like VDI, they see that ROI is heavy on “soft costs.” Try explaining how you save on labor costs without reducing workforce in this economy where IT shops are already understaffed. Many people don’t get it when it comes to Cloud, which suddenly became Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) and now Software Defined Enterprise (SDE). But that can be the subject of a future post.
There was a little video before the keynote on Tuesday morning that hammered it home. Think about VMware in its first ten years. No one “got” virtualization. But VMware persisted and stuck to its guns. Now it has become standard issue in a data center. VMware is taking the same approach to the Software Defined Data Center. They are even starting to call it Software Defined Enterprise instead. Their stance is that, with persistence, the SDDC message will be heard and will become the norm. There is a constant struggle between the people that deliver IT and the people that consume IT. The fundamental ideas of SDDC help calm that struggle.
Right now, Microsoft appears to be hot on the tail of VMware and I see many people seriously reconsidering their method of delivery. I think the biggest things that VMware has going for it right now are vCenter Operations Manager (vCOPS) and Site Recovery Manager (SRM). I think that SRM is possibly the only thing keeping some enterprises on VMware for business critical applications. VMware is trying to display an air of non concern. Possibly, they are ignoring the “Evil Empire.” When many enterprises are already paying for Windows Datacenter Edition and System Center, there needs to be justifications to keep vSphere. I see Hyper-V taking a foothold, especially in SMB and branch offices and in places where basic server virtualization is good enough.
It is interesting to see some of the visions play out over the course of time. I remember back in 2007 or 2008, when PEX was still Technical Solutions Exchange (TSX). I remember Carl Eishenbach (http://www.vmware.com/company/leadership/carl-eschenbach.html) announcing the VCDX program. I remember he said that there would be about 200 of us by the end of 2008. Back then, customers needed someone to design their greenfield environment and assist with migration from physical to virtual. I don’t find myself needing to prove that vMotion works any more. Although there are likely many greenfield opportunities out there, most of my design expertise is now spent assisting with creating higher consolidation ratios and helping customers deliver a more optimized datacenter that may not always have vSphere at the top of the list. I have seen VMware go from a stand alone hypervisor to centrally managed solution to the defacto standard then to what I describe as “meh.” There is no pop anymore. No excitement. Maybe I am getting too pessimistic in my old age.
Stay tooned! I have more to come on the interesting finds on the Solutions Exchange floor.