VMworld 2015: Day One Recap

It was a long but good week out west for VMworld 2015. This year’s event was kicked off by Carl Eschenbach (COO) who said there were roughly 23,000 attendees at the event this year, a new record. Carl highlighted that the core challenges seen today by VMware’s customers are speed, innovation, productivity, agility, security, and cost.  Not a huge surprise based on what I have seen with our customer base. Carl then went into how VMware could help customers overcome these challenges and broke the solutions up into categories of run, build, deliver, and secure. The overarching message here was that VMware is keenly focused on making the first three (run, build, and deliver) easier and focusing on security across all of the various product/solution sets in the portfolio.  Carl also hit on freedom, flexibility, and choice as being core to VMware, meaning that they are committed to working with any and all vendors/solutions/products, both upstream in the software world and downstream in the hardware world.  We’ve heard this message now for a couple of years and it’s obvious that VMware is making strides in that area (one example being more and more Openstack integration points).


Carl then began discussing the concept of a single Unified Hybrid Cloud.  In a way, this is very similar to GreenPages’ CMaaS messaging in that we don’t necessarily care where systems and applications physically reside because we can provide a single pane of glass to manage and monitor regardless of location.  In the case of VMware, this means having a common vSphere based infrastructure in the datacenter or in the cloud and allowing seamless movement of applications across various private or public environments.

Carl then introduced Bill Fathers, the general manager for vCloud Air.  Apparently, the recent rumors regarding the death of vCloud Air were greatly exaggerated as it was front and center in both keynotes and during Sunday’s partner day. As far as vCloud Air adoption, Bill said that VMware is seeing the most traction in the areas of DR, application scaling, and mobile development.

Bill brought Raghu Raghuram, who runs the infrastructure and management (SDDC) business, up on stage with him. Ragu, again, kept the conversation at a high level and touched on the rise of the hybrid application and how VMware’s Unified Hybrid Cloud strategy could address this.  A hybrid application is one in which some components (typically back end databases) run in the traditional on premise datacenter while other components (web servers, middleware servers, etc.) run in a public cloud environment. This really ties into the age old concept of “cloud bursting,” where one might need to spin up a lot of web servers for a short period of time (black Friday for retail, Valentine’s day for flower shops, etc.) then spin them back down. This has really been a bit of science fiction to date, as most applications were never developed with this in mind and, thus, don’t necessarily play nice in this world.  However, VMware (and I can personally attest to this via conversations with customers) is seeing more and more customers develop “cloud native” applications which ARE designed to work in this way. I would agree, this will be a very powerful cloud use case over the next 12-24 months. I see GreenPages being very well position to add a ton of value for our customers in this area, as we have strong teams on both the infrastructure and cloud native application development sides of the equation.

Another tight collaboration between Bill and Raghu’s teams is Project Skyscraper; the concept of Cross-Cloud vMotion, which, as the name would imply, is the process of moving a live running virtual machine between a private cloud and vCloud Air (or vice versa) with literally zero downtime.  Several technologies come together to make this happen including NSX to provide the layer 2 stretch between the environments and shared nothing vMotion/vSphere replication  to handle the data replication and actual movement of the VM.  While this is very cool and makes for a great demo, I do question why you would want to do a lot of it. As we know, there is much more to moving an existing application to a cloud environment than simply forklifting what you have today.  Typically, you’ll want to re-architect the application to take full advantage of what the public cloud can offer. But, if you simply want an active/active datacenter and/or stretch cluster setup and don’t have your own secondary datacenter or co-lo facility to build it, this could be a quick way to get there.

Following Raghu was Rodney Rogers CEO of Virtustream, the hosting provider recently acquired by EMC and the rumored death nail to vCloud Air.  Rodney did a great job explaining where Virtustream fits in the cloud arena. It is essentially a place to host business critical tier 1 applications, like SAP, in a public cloud environment.  I won’t go into deep technical detail, but Virtustream has found a way to make hosting these large critical applications cost effective in a robust/resilient way. I believe the core message here was that Virtustream and vCloud Air are a bit like apples and oranges and that neither is going away. I do believe at some point soon we’ll be hearing about some form of consolidation between the two so stay tuned!

Ray O’Farrell, the newly appointed CTO and longtime CDO (Chief Development Officer), was next up on the stage.  He started off talking about containers (Docker, Kubernetes, etc.) in a general sense.  He quickly went on to show some pretty cool extensions that VMware is working on so that the virtualization admins can have visibility into the container level via traditional management tools such as the vCenter Web Client.  This is a bit of a blind spot currently as the VMware management tools can drill down to the virtual machine level but not any additional partitioning (such as containers) which may exist within virtual machines.  Additionally, Ray announced Project Photon. It’s basically a super thin hypervisor based on the vSphere kernel which would act as a container platform within the VMware ecosystem. The platform consists of a controller which VMware will release as open source and a ‘machine’ which will be proprietary to VMware as part of the Photon Platform but will be a paid subscription service.  Additionally, there will be an integrated bundle of the Pivotal Cloud Foundry platform bundled with Photon as another subscription option.  It’s apparent that VMware is really driving hard into the developer space, but it remains to be seen if workloads like big data and containers will embrace a virtual platform. I’ll post a recap of Tuesday’s general session tomorrow!

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By Chris Ward, CTO