Summary: Some new (and actually exciting) announcements, some good conversations about the challenges VMware face in the next few years, and business as usual in the solutions exchange, HOL, and general sessions. Still a conference worth attending!
As I’ve done for the last couple of years (2012, 2011, 2010) I recently attended VMworld Europe, which was in Barcelona for the second year. As you can see from my photo on the right, it looks much the same as last year (unsurprisingly)! Blue skies, warm weather, and a large conference venue stocked to the gills with techies and technology…
As is the case every year I’ve been the keynotes are largely a repeat of the US sessions with a few additions to keep the masses happy. Typically it’s management products that get announced at Europe although this year I’m glad to say they felt more substantial than previous years (a full list can be found on the official VMworld blog);
- vCAC v6.0 announced (though not available until towards the end of the year) including vFabric Application Director and integration with Puppet.
- Log Insight v1.5 announced (though not available until towards the end of the year)
- vCOPs v5.8 announced (though not available until towards the end of the year)
- In the EUC space VMware announced the acquisition of Desktone, a ‘desktop-as-a-service’ company. Given the complexity of VDI I think this has a lot of potential to increase adoption.
- vCHS to launch in the UK in Q1 2014. The vCHS Online Marketplace was also launched although I’ve not had a chance to look at it yet.
The vCAC integration with vFabric Application Director and Puppet look like great additions (and allowed VMware to jump on the DevOps bandwagon) and the announcment that vCHS will be available in the UK early next year is welcome. NSX conversations were a recurring theme throughout the four days – everyone agrees that it looks good but also agrees that adoption faces quite a few challenges and the fact that pricing is a per-VM model won’t help. I’m no longer quite as grumpy or pessimistic as I was after VMworld US but I still think VMware are in for a tough few years. Hopefully I’ll find time to post my thoughts on this soon.
NOTE: Frustratingly the rest of the show is closed while the keynotes are on – I wouldn’t expect sessions to start as that would distract a good percentage of the audience but surely the hands on labs could be open so that those familiar with the keynote have an alternative?
I had a few interesting conversations with people about VMware’s product evolution and ‘IT as a service’. vCAC, ITBM, and the increased focus on service management would seem to tie in nicely with BMC’s product portfolio (they were also heavily plugging their DevOps credentials incidentally) – maybe there’s a good match to be made?
…and still no VMTN Subscription! With Microsoft having killed Technet I guess the pressure is off VMware, especially now the HOLs are available to all online. If we haven’t seem them yet, after waiting nearly two years since Mike Laverick got the issue rolling, I suspect we’re not going to. I’m still holding out hope as I know it’s been raised to the point where Pat Gelsinger’s aware of it but the light at the end of the tunnel still seems to be a long way away…
The Hands on Labs
These followed last year’s pattern with a BYOD section alongside the conventional seating rows. Since earlier this year the labs are available online (for free) all year round so there’s less need to spend precious conference time in the labs (although a couple were running beta code not yet available online – apparently it’ll be online in a couple of weeks). Behind the scenes both the conference and the online labs run on the same infrastructure (VMware OneCloud) – talk about eating your own dogfood! I took a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the labs and picked up a few interesting tidbits;
- They increased the focus on ‘service’ this year. The staff and NOC were on ground level and more accessible, a bespoke helpdesk application was written to help support the lab experience, and a chat facility has been added. There was also a workshop area where you could follow up with staff about VMware products and questions that might have occured during the labs.
- Unsurprisingly the NSX labs were by far the most popular.
- The operations dashboard continues to evolve and now includes Log Insight. EMCs Xtreme-IO was in use and the impressive looking GUI showed the realtime IOPS which weren’t as high as I expected – about 70k during the few minutes I watched. Apparently the labs consume less than 12TB of storage.
The Solutions Exchange
The solutions exchange is the place to learn about the third party ecosystem surrounding VMware although you normally have to cut through a fairly thick layer of marketing first! The show floor is a bit like a circus with everyone vying for your attention with whatever ‘entertainment’ they can think of – this year there was an F1 simulator, a skydiving experience, and Netapp’s usual cycling challenge amongst others. There’s also a ton of giveaways which vary from pens and t-shirts to tablets – notably this year there was more variety on that front rather than just iPads. Whether feedback from previous conferences has been heard or not I don’t know but I think the ‘booth babe’ phenomenon was less present/visible than previous years.
The trends I was focusing on were much the same as last year though they’re now more mature;
- server side flash caching solutions are even more mainstream with VMware’s vFRC, Pernix Data, Proximal Data and Flashsoft all demonstrating solutions.
- storage provided via ‘distributed DAS’ (think Nutanix, VMware’s VSAN, EMC’s Scale-IO. Chad Sakac (EMC) and Vaughn Stewart (Pure Storage) discussed this concept in general session STO5638). I spoke to Bas Raayman at Nutanix as I was curious how they view the competition VSAN represents but they’re confident that their offering is more mature (it’s been shipping a few years, whereas VSAN is still in beta), scales better, plus offers better features (such as compression and dedupe). The key may be pricing, which VMware haven’t announced yet. I guess all competition is good for us, the users!
- Adoption of converged infrastructure continues to grow and VCE, Nutanix, Hitachi, Dell, Netapp et all were are demonstrating their converged infrastructure offerings. New this year (to me at least) was Bull who launched a converged offering at the show but it looks like a reference architecture (with Netapp and Brocade) that offers nothing new.
Interestingly I didn’t see lots of startups offering NSX integration or solutions in the SDN space – maybe it’s too new or maybe I just missed them (the list of ‘new innovators’ for Europe was pretty small). I had a brief chat with Arista (which like Cumulus Networks has Linux as a foundation) but I think my lack of networking knowledge limits my ability to ask the right questions!
Pivotal have well and truly split from VMware such that their presence at the show was minimal. I’d at least hoped to get some literature covering their products and solutions but the guy I spoke to on the stand had very little to offer. A post-conference Google revealed that there was information available so maybe I spoke to the wrong person.
- Using graph databases to simplify virtualization management.
- What-if DRS
- Autoscaling of Cloud Applications using Machine Learning
- Proactive Resource Management (which expands on last year’s award winning idea)
What I enjoyed about this stand was you were talking to the engineers who were creating the solutions, not just marketing folk. Whether they make it through to a marketable product with mainstream appeal is another question but their enthusiasm was infectious and there are some great ideas. They’re currently running a flings competition where you can win a ticket to VMworld 2014 but get your entries in soon as it ends on the 15th Nov 2013.
I also had the chance to chat again to Eric Ullanderson, VMware’s head of technical education who I first met at the vExpert party last year. He was giving a talk about the new VCA certification and I was interested to see a new ‘network’ track which is obviously being ushered in by NSX (though it has yet to be released). We discussed industry awareness around the VCAP certifications (which Eric admitted need a push to boost awareness – they’re on it) and whether a networking certification from VMware will gain credibility. Watch this space I guess!
I also spoke to PuppetLabs, HDS, Lenovo, Simplivity (who presented me with a vExpert Pi), Nimble Storage, Virident, Barracuda, and Zerto but will probably write those up separately – this post has already taken too long to write! There are a lot less vendors compared to the US show (including a few I’d like to have seen such as Hotlink, Cloud Physics, Tegile, and Splunk) and interestingly I noted that a few of the less virtualisation centric companies have opted to attend IP Expo in the UK instead of VMworld (Tegile, Avere Systems, Res Software, Emulex, Solarwinds and Oracle, amongst others). Hopefully next year the two conferences can be arranged so they don’t clash.
The blogger/community lounge (where I spent more time than I should) was nicely placed near the hands on labs and by the hang space. The vBrownBags (initial agenda), Engineers Unplugged, and VMworld TV crews were all in attendance doing their thing although sadly theCube wasn’t present as they only cover the larger US show. Lots of good content as always as I took part in vSoup’s VMworld podcast for the third year running – some traditions are worth keeping.
Monday night kickstarted my conference with the Pernix Data party, held at the (very hard to find) Boo Beach Club. It was a lovely location right on the beach with many of the twitterati in attendance plus Melvin the MonsterVM (who covered a lot of ground at VMworld this year!). As is always the case with these events there’s a mixture of industry/tech talk and social, especially as the night progresses and alcohol is imbibed…
Tuesday was a clash between the vExpert/VCDX/Office of the CTO party and the Veeam party though plenty managed to do both! The Veeam party was apparently huge – circa 1,700 people, but what happens at the Veeam party stays at the Veeam party so I’ll leave it at that.
On Wednesday I took some time out of the solutions exchange to take advantage of Trend Micro’s skydiving freebie. It meant a 20 minute wait for a few minutes on the simulator but it was great fun and not something you normally get the chance to do so easily. I still can’t get excited about antivirus and security but at least I now have a positive association with Trend Micro.
I skipped the VMworld party on Wednesday night and instead went out for a sit down meal (living off conference food isn’t enjoyable) with Michael Webster, Craig Waters, and Mike Laverick. It’s these informal chats which I value as they help to shape my thoughts. This was followed by a tweetup (organised by Hans DeLeenheer and sponsored by Simplivity) where we continued our chat over a beer with Christian Mohn (and many others) about the conference announcements, NSX, working in IT, and the skills you might need going forwards. There were plenty of great people there and I missed the chance to have a chat with Massimo Referre which was a shame as I’m a fan of his work!
Until next year, goodbye VMworld Europe!