IMO: #VMworld US 2016: My Summary (On the new products and strategy)

It’s been a few days since VMworld is over and it took me a while to internally process the input I gathered through sessions, discussions are thinking/sleeping/gambling about them.

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After the first 2 days, many of the articles & comments about  the general sessions at VMworld have been really harsch.  And to be honest, the technological guy inside of me absolutely agrees. No announcements about the next vSphere release. The new features and updates presented on the big stage were only useful for specific customer or user-groups .

  • vSphere integrated containers for developers
  • NSX enhancements for everyone ;-)
  • Horizon and Airwatch within the EUC field

All of the announcements and presentations were solid and sense-making, but most of the people in the room were missing the great thing, this big-bang feature, the vMotion moment that made most of us curious to learn more about VMware’s technology and products.

From a technical point of view I can understand the disappointment of the people. Let’s switch our position to a more business related perspective.

The economical environment in which VMware is operating has become tough over the years. Being in a innovative tech-industry is always tough. You start and grow being disruptive to an existing environment. You become bigger by destroying the business model of others, you exist because you satisfy a customers need with a pricing model compensating the costs the customers have, you stay innovative to make sure no other company will destroy your business model with new technologies, services and innovations.

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Those are pretty simple business concepts.

VMware made the underlying server hardware quiet a commodity (for sure the quality of components, service and matter a lot)

VMware has 100.000 of customers worldwide. Their reputation is still a very good one and 23.000 of the customers and partners are willing to travel (& and pay) for VMworld.

So what’s the big deal? Environment variables change all the time:

Microsoft is doing a great job in almost every area they are putting their focus on. Microsoft’s Hyper-V is a product that will be used to more and more by VMware’s smaller customer. During VMworld  a partner told me that from a calculation perspective it is getting harder and harder to sell vSphere to the smaller enterprises instead of Hyper-V.

IMO: With the current SMB licensing offerings it will be tough to compete against Microsoft on a long-term.

How about the big cloud vendors, Pat Gelsinger called during his general session mega-clouds. Amazon’s cloud offerings and Microsoft Azure are properly the biggest thread on a long-term for VMware. Computing, Network, Storage or Infrastructure-Service are becoming more and more commodity. The more commodity they will get, the more they will be standardized, the more they can be moved to external providers in case the overall model fits to the customers needs.

IMO: People and companies still have concerns when taking workloads and data to public clouds: trust, security, cost-transparency, resiliency, functionality. Those concerns will only be decreased over time and with the right technologies developed in the meantime.

What’s hindering companies to just move into those mega-clouds? You don’t consume your infrastructure in a way, that you have been used to before. In the ‘legacy’ era (and we are still in this era, the present are legacy) we built the systems based on our needs. We extent them as we want, we linked them together as we wanted, we created our processes around as we wanted. For every request a change or workaround might potentially be created directly by operators or engineers within the team to make sure the business was happy. This led to chaotic situations in many companies and is for sure not the way we want to manage IT.  But that’s how it is, how it is grown in the shadow and especially how it has worked so far.

This chat-based infrastructure management is not working anymore with mega-cloud provider. They have a specific set of features you can consume. That’s it. If you can’t find the feature it becomes more and more difficult to become a system your business requires and people will start creating their own smaller silos again at home

IMO: Most organizations, even those in big enterprises don’t have the processes, knowledge and management for those mega-clouds yet. This will change on a long-term. And the way I believe this might happen will be through Service-Providers.

How does a Service-Provider managed infrastructure differs from the mega-cloud offerings? They are a little bit more flexible. Most Service-Provider lack the huge-scale of Amazon or Microsoft (ok ok, replace most with all). But they have a unique-selling point. They might be able to change the environment to the customers needs. I have been in the last years to multiple enterprises that moved to the cloud. In all cases the cloud was more an outsourced environment aligned completely to the customers needs.

And to be honest. This is a good thing. This is step towards structured IT-processes. Suddenly you need IT-Processes in place, you need an IT-Service management, you need to overthink all the processes you have created within the last decades. Because if you don’t do so, the service provider based platform will be expensive as well. You want a very specific change? Other like the mega-cloud provider, smaller service providers will agree, but after the transition phase this will come around with a little additiona change-fee.

IMO: The migration to service-provider will increase over the next years and people will start streamlining the way their IT is managed with Service Providers.

Service Provider will grow within the next years and VMware is in a very good position with the vCloud Air Network (vCAN) strategy. They can benefit a lot from new products like vSAN, NSX and of course its management solutions (vCD, vROPS, vRO, vRA). With the Cloud foundation (integrating vSAN, NSX and SDDC Manager) for on-premise installation and (first of all) IBM’s Softlayer based service will especially make bigger customers happy. Additionally Softlayer seems not to be the worst solution out-there (based on the black-jack chips some of the IBM/Soflayer Sales guys I played with during VMworld ;-).

IMO: What will we get within future: A stable or slightly decreasing number of self-hosted vSphere environments, an increasing number customer using service provider offering VMware products within their vCAN offerings and system within mega-clouds.

Building one management platform (in form of the SDDC Manager) to rule them all is a key-element for VMware’s future.

IMO: I always though vRealize Automation will be the overall management solution by VMware. We will see in the future how those 2 products will co-exist with each other

Having centralized management, price-comparison options, reporting is the one thing. Moving and securing workloads and data from one hosting-system to another is great and real accelerator for cloud offerings (who isn’t afraid of not getting his data back?). Giving recommendations how and where to place workloads (and keeping some arbitrage for the transaction) is something so far I haven’t seen so far.

Being a meta-cloud is maybe not as exciting for many of the pure tech-guys, but still this can be an awesome thing for all of us. Our knowledge will need to be extended a lot to feel comfortable with many great new solutions. This can be scary, but this can be super exiting as well.

The technologies we know and love will not become obsolete. Au contrair (I am sitting in a Parisien UBER while I am writing that), the technology evolves to enable a fully managed, secure and mobile workload and data. vMotion and VMDKs will get native encryption, NSX can manage vSphere and cloud based environments, vRealize Network Insight (vRNI)  gives us deeper network insights than ever, container managed and secured within a well-known management-infrastructure, etc.

Of course the future might differ (it always differs from your expectations), but I think VMware is running a good strategy to extent their portfolio to become a cloud-management provider.

Microsoft and Amazon are to big and as I tweeted during VMworld: ‘If you can’t beat them, join them

vSphere and the other products won’t die, the deal with dell will change the hardware-centric economy, but with an increasing movement to cloud and service-provider this will have less of an impact in the end to the customer themselves.

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