We had some notable bloggers stop by theCube at VMworld today, all anxious to discuss their perspective on this year’s event, where VMware is headed and what’s going on in the virtualization industry. Gary Orenstein and Derrick Harris of GigaOm, and George Reese of O’Reilly Media sat down for a panel moderated by our own Alex Williams, for a lively look at VMworld 2011 (video recap below).
Looking back at VMware’s milestones this year, there was some good mixed with the bad. From a product standpoint, VMware launched an all new vSphere 5, then killed the excitement with a price hike. It was a prime opportunity for Microsoft to swoop in and try to lure some customers away. And in fact, Microsoft’s been pretty snarky about its rivals events today, pulling publicity stunts of its own in light of VMworld and Dreamforce, both going on this week. With competition on the rise, one important question Williams raises during the panel is whether or not VMware can own virtualization, and if it’s playing in a time of disruption or another evolution of IT?
Virtualization in the midst of IT evolution
It’s a touch question to answer, especially when you begin to break down VMware’s product offerings. As Harris notes, VMware puts clients in the cloud data center. It’s a different play, and it’s not likely to compete outside of virtualization, such as in areas Amazon has a stronghold. But where VMware does well is in its legacy applications, “and around doing stuff around what you’ve got, and making it a little bit cloudy,” Reese says. He goes on to cite the recent Verizon cloud acquisition as an example of companies still needing certain types of applications that fit in with their existing needs, pointing out VMware’s next challenge as addressing this at the infrastructure level–being able to do things like auto-scale rapidly.
Orenstein, who’s a regular guest on theCube, is quick to point out that VMware’s Cloud Foundry, which is gaining traction in the open source sector, is in fact designed to help with things like application integration and auto-scaling. At the platform level, sure. But not at the infrastructure level, Reese goes on. Where vCloud is lacking is at the self-healing and auto-scaling level, where these characteristics don’t yet exist.
SaaS and IaaS: VMware’s next targets?
But there’s a trend building here, as Orenstein points out, as the industry shifts away from infrastructure demands. There’s multiple ways to address this, from a platform or an orchestration layer to take care of the underlying infrastructure, Reese notes. And each solution has its time and place.
So what does the future hold for VMware and the virtualization industry of tomorrow? Williams thinks it will still be a discussion of data. “I think you’ll see that as more platforms emerge,” he says. “Tim O’Reilly said that the app store was the killer app. And what are all those apps made of? Data. This is going to continue in their realms, beyond our mobile apps.”
“We forget how many applications VMware has already bought,” Harris reminds the panel. There’s Zimbra and SocialCast to name just two. So is VMware looking to become the next Salesforce, competing in the SaaS space for the enterprise? “No,” Reese says. “They’re going after owning SaaS and IaaS but at this point, if they have any level of humility, they wouldn’t go after the king of SaaS as their first target.”
“But they are getting stronger in this area,” Williams interjects. Orenstein then goes on to say that VMworld’s indicating a potential big push here, as they reach for some of these higher level applications. Reese then admits that the focus on the application is already present, and so it’s not a question of the application itself, but how it’s deployed.
With indications pointing at IaaS and SaaS, is VMware looking to compete with Microsoft or Salesforce? There’s no telling, in this era of inclusive cloud services, especially when virtualization seeks to address so many issues around centralizing management, minimizing integration work and solving the issue of server management. In many regards, VMware will have to compete with both Microsoft and Salesforce in order to offer a comprehensive solution, and it also relies on its network of partners to extend its base products across varied enterprise needs.
VMware vs Microsoft or Salesforce?
All this talk of applications led Williams to note some important trends developing in the enterprise mobile app space, which is a topic we cover regularly, and even offer a weekly roundup of tablet applications for business use. The movement is definitely shifting towards enterprise-level solutions that are accessible on personal devices, and this is changing the way IT has to operate, as Citrix pointed out in its “bring your own device” study.
One change introduced by the consumer mobile era is performance, and how bottlenecks are hindering the enterprise. As Harris brings up, there’s a great deal of progress being made in SSD and Flash storage to address bottleneck issues. And that’s certainly a trend we’ve noticed in our coverage here at siliconAngle as well. The SSD space has seen several products for virtualized machines lately, from FlashSoft to Xiotech.