Quick-Take: VMworld 2011, Thoughts on the Airplane

August 28, 2011

On the way to VMworld this morning this morning I started-out by listening to @Scott_lowe, @mike_laverick and @duncanyp about stretched clusters and some esoteric storage considerations. Then i was off reading @sakacc blogging about his take on stretch clusters and the black hole of node failure when I stumbled on a retweet @bgracely via @andreliebovici about the spectre of change in our industry. Suddenly these things seemed very well related within the context of my destination: VMworld 2011.

Back about a month ago when vSphere 5 was announced the buzz about the “upgrade” was consumed by discussions about licensing and vRAM. Naturally, this was not the focus VMware was hoping for, especially considering how much of a step forward vSphere 5 is over VS4. Rather, VMware – by all deserved rights – wanted to hear “excited” conversations about how VS5 was closing the gap on vCloud architecture problems and pain-points.

Personally, I managed to keep the vRAM licensing issue out of SOLORI’s blog for two reasons: 1) the initial vRAM targets were so off that VMware had to make a change, and 2) significant avenues for the discussion were available elsewhere. That does not mean I wasn’t outspoken about my thoughts on vRAM – made obvious by contributions to some community discussions on the topic – or VMware’s reasoning for moving to vRAM. Suffice to say VMware did “the right thing” – as I had confidence they would – and the current vRAM targets capture 100% of my clients without additional licenses.

I hinted that VS5 answers a lot of the hanging questions from VS4 in terms of facilitating how cloud confederations are architected, but the question is: in the distraction, did VS5’s “goodness” get lost in the scuffle? If so, can they get back the mind share they may have lost to Chicken Little reactionaries?

First, if VMware’s lost ground to anyone, it’s VMware. The vast majority of cool-headed admins I talked to were either not affected by vRAM or were willing to take a wait-and-see outlook on vSphere 5 with continued use of vSphere 4.1. Some did evaluate Hyper-V’s “readiness” but most didn’t blink. By comparison, vSphere 4.1 still had more to offer private cloud than anything else.

Secondly, vSphere 5 “goodness” did get lost in the scuffle, and that’s okay! It may be somewhat counter intuitive but I believe VMware will actually come out well ahead of their “would be” position in the market, and it is precisely because of these things, not just in spite of them. Here’s my reasoning:

1) In the way the vSphere 5 launch announcement and vRAM licensing debacle unfolded, lot of the “hot air” about vRAM was vented along the way. Subsequently, VMware gained some service cred by actually listening to their client base and making a significant change to their platform pricing model. VMware got more bang-for-their-buck out of that move as the effect on stock price may never be known here, given the timing of the S&P ratings splash, but I would have expected to see a slight hit. Fortunately, 20-30% sector slides trump vRAM, and only Microsoft is talking about vRAM now (that is until they adopt something similar.)

On that topic, anytime you can get your competitor talking about your product instead of theirs, it usually turns out to be a good thing. Even in this case, where the topic has nothing to do with the needs of most businesses, negative marketing against vRAM will ultimately do more to establish VMware as an innovator than an “already too expensive alternative to XYZ.”

2) SOLORI’s law of conservation of marketing momentum: goodness preserved, not destroyed. VMworld 2011 turns out to be perfectly timed to generate excitement in all of the “goodness” that vSphere 5 has to offer. More importantly, it can now do so with increased vigor and without a lot of energy siphoned-off discussing vRAM, utilization models and what have you: been there done that, on to the meat and away with the garnish.

3) Again it’s odd timing, but the market slide has more folks looking at cloud than ever before. Confidence in cloud offerings has been a deterrent for private cloud users, partly because of the “no clear choices” scenario and partly because concerns about data migration in and around the public cloud. Instability and weak growth in the world economy have people reevaluating CAPEX-heavy initiatives as well as priorities. The bar for cloud offerings has never been lower.

In vSphere 5, VMware hints at the ability for more cloud providers to be transparent to the subscriber: if they adopt vSphere. Ultimately, this will facilitate vendor agnosticism much like the early days of the Internet. Back then, operators discovered that common protocols allowed for dial-up vendors to share resources in a reciprocal and transparent manner. This allowed the resources of provider A to be utilized by a subscriber of provider B: the end user was completely unaware of the difference. For those that don’t have strict requirements on where their data “lives” and/or are more interested in adherence to availability and SLA requirements, this can actually induce a broader market instead of a narrower one.

If you’ve looked past vRAM, you may have noticed for yourself that vSphere has more to deliver cloud offerings than ever before. VMware will try to convince you that whether cloud bursting, migrating to cloud or expanding hybrid cloud options, having a common underlying architecture promotes better flexibility and reduces overall cost and complexity. They want you to conclude that vSphere 5 is the basis for that architecture. Many will come away from Las Vegas – having seen it – believing it too.

So, as I – and an estimated 20K+ other virtualization junkies – head off to Las Vegas for a week of geek overload, parties and social networking, my thoughts turn to @duncanyp‘s 140+ improvements, enhancements and advances waiting back home in my vSphere 5 lab. Last week he challenged his “followers” to be the first to post examples of all of them; with the myriad of hands-on labs and expert sessions just over the horizon, I hope to do it one better and actually experience them first hand.

These things all add up to a win-win for VMware and a strong showing for VMworld. It’s going to be an exciting and – tip of the hat to @bgracely – industry changing week! Now off to the fray…


See Mike Laverick’s chinwag podcasts

See Chad’s Sakacc’s VirtualGeek blog on stretched cluster issues to overcome

(excuse typos today, wordpress iPad…)

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