It's a Small VMworld After All

With relatively few attendees and even fewer big announcements, VMware's annual show left just one lasting impression: fear of Microsoft.

Here's the most important thing I learned from VMworld San Francisco 2009: VMware Inc. is terrified.

How do I know this? Because it's pushing a cloud-computing initiative that's years away from common implementation and will never be more than a niche technology -- a big niche, potentially, but a niche nonetheless.

VMware wants to be your cloud infrastructure provider. That was what VMworld, held in late August and early September, was about. Problem is, it's nothing but marketing hype. Most companies are barely even starting to think about the cloud in practical, day-to-day terms.

Microsoft Catching Up
If that's the case, why the cloud emphasis from VMware? In a word: Microsoft. Redmond is catching up to Palo Alto in the virtualization space -- and it's catching up fast. VMware needs to look like it's keeping its technology lead; like it's pushing the virtualization envelope even further. And with vSphere last year, that's what happened.

This year, there were no announcements from VMware of real significance. Not like Hyper-V R2 from Microsoft. Not like Windows 7 from Microsoft -- and, by the way, Windows Server 2008 R2/Windows 7 have the building blocks of a very nice virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution. Uh-oh.

Given the lack of electricity -- the dynamic that defined last year's show -- something had to be done. The cloud, with its lofty promises and dreamy visions, fit the bill. VMware's strategy at VMworld was: We'll point to the cloud, talk a lot about the future and hope attendees don't notice the absence of much new to talk about.

For more proof, look no further than the postage-stamp booths given to Microsoft and Citrix Systems Inc. Those 10-by-10-foot booths were laughable. And it went further. If you wanted, like me, a XenServer 5.5 or Hyper-V R2 demo, you were out of luck: VMware outlawed displays of those technologies at its "industry" event. To me, that screamed: "We don't want customers seeing what competitors can do!" Not to mention them seeing how much cheaper those Microsoft and Citrix products are.

Maritz Plays the Bad Cop
VMware CEO Paul Maritz had a very interesting press conference at VMworld. I wouldn't expect vCenter to ever support Hyper-V or XenServer. When asked whether that would happen -- and the questioner noted that Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager can manage ESX -- Maritz danced a little, talking about how VMware's challenge is to support its own product. Then, he tacked on a "if we have enough customer demand, we'll consider supporting Hyper-V in the future" phrase. The message seemed clear enough to me: It isn't happening.

Maritz also said some harsh things about competitors and even about one of VMware's own partners. In answers to separate questions, he said that Microsoft, with live migration added to Hyper-V R2, "is now where we were three years ago."

It's clear, however, that Maritz sees Redmond as a major threat, because he didn't dismiss it the way he did Citrix. He basically said Citrix's XenServer platform, and the suite of products built on top of it, are a non-factor in the industry.

Maritz may want to check that attitude at the door next time. Given that Burton Group analyst Chris Wolf recently listed XenServer 5.5 alongside vSphere as one of only two virtualization solutions that are enterprise production-ready today -- and given the fact that XenServer is less expensive than vSphere -- Maritz may be laughing too soon.

One other comment that struck me at the press conference: Maritz said that there have been about half a million downloads of ESXi, the free, lightweight version of ESX. He said VMware "would like to know what [customers] are doing" with it. Hold on a minute -- you release a product, get tons of downloads of that product and have no idea what the users are doing with it? Shocking. Maybe it's time for some e-mailing and phone calls, VMware. When ESXi was released, VMware called it the future direction of ESX. I wonder if it still holds to that position, given that VMware doesn't seem too interested in seeing how it's being used in the real world.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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Reader Comments:

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 AS147 Australia

Where is the data behind this bold statement? Also when did one word equal many?? "In a word: Microsoft. Redmond is catching up to Palo Alto in the virtualization space -- and it's catching up fast."

Tue, Sep 29, 2009 End User

The best summary i read of this article is the reference to Fox News.This is a highly embarrassing article - not sure MS would even approve - full of obvious errors. My daughter could have done better research and produced a better discussion.Time to open your eyes to the change happening. Some very good pieces here such as that by Jon to explain cloud uses.

Mon, Sep 28, 2009 Floppy Disk Chicago

And this guy is the Editor in Chief of an industry agnostic magazine? Did he even attend VMworld or was that what the 4 people in the 8X12 foot Microsoft booth told them? Talk about being scared. If they were so confident in their technology, I'd think there would have been a little stronger showing!!!

Mon, Sep 28, 2009 Notlikely

Keith who?

Fri, Sep 25, 2009 Vivek Cupertino, California

I was there all four days and what I saw was a serious and enthusiastic number of end users of VMware technology that were clearly proud of how this technology was making them more effective in managing their IT problems in production. This author seems heavily biased and don't think has a clue about the innovations that VMware is driving. Your loss.

Fri, Sep 25, 2009 Observer Virtual

The title of the publication does after all state "Voice of Microsoft" :)

Fri, Sep 25, 2009

"Relatively few attendees"?? You clearly didn't go to the event - did anyone tell you it was in San Fran this year instead of Vegas?

Fri, Sep 25, 2009 Morpheus Redmond

How much did Microsoft pay you for the article author ?

Fri, Sep 25, 2009 fair minded

I'm surpised this publication goes into print with stuff like this. Its not even effective FUD because its so transparent

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 Jon

The Cloud is the seperation of End User from IT Infrastructure. Cloud computing provides the ability to access applications, data, and services from anywhere while providing a company with the ability to leverage IT to adapt to changing business conditions. Rapidly develop/test and deploy new applications. Dynamically scale infrastructure based on demand. We have been in the cloud for years. The author leveraged cloud computing to communicate this article. others have posted comments using the cloud. None of us had to even think about the infrastructure behind this service. simply open web browser, type url and you are here. We bank via cloud, do our taxes via cloud (except Hyper-V boy he used MS Money for FREE). We watch TV and make phone calls via the cloud and even distribute software (VMs). Current business infrastructure is legacy, inflexible and won't scale to the new age internet with social networking, mass content distribution and world commerce. VMware provides a reliable, available and scalable infrastructure for business systems (ecommerce, content distribution, HPC, infrastructure services, portals, and legacy businss apps like Oracle and MSFT). VMware has been providing a cloud infrastructure for business systems since 2006 when they introduced VI3. rapid provisioning, dynamic workload scaling, and high availability are the core building blocks and MSFT provides NONE of this. Vmware has taken it even further with resource pools (multi-tenant environments on a single utility). Vmware has converged management of network, compute systems and storage to make a truely elastic business computing infrastructure. MSFT and Citrix are not even close. They have commoditized server partitioning and single server application virtualization. Vmware was doing that in 2001, nearly a decade ago. VMware is focused on the rapid development of cloud based applications (SpringSource), the seemless deployment and guaranteed performance of said cloud service. Linkedin can now rapidly expand their infrastructure to provide new recruiting/staffing services to companies. Disney can rapidly deploy infrastructure to support a live streaming concert of Hanna Montana. As demand grows the infrastructure can dynamically expand and when the concert is over the infrastructure can shrink to the required capacity. Starbucks can provide music and video downloads via kiosk (VMware VDI). Other retailers can do focus advertising in specific locations and rapidly change digital content by changing the Virtual Desktop streaming to a Kiosk or display. Cloud computing is here. VMware is providing the cloud infrastructure for business systems today and it terrifies MSFT and Oracle.

Thu, Sep 24, 2009

Wow. I won't complain about the author's lack of knowledge, but I will complement him on his bias. This article looks like the fox news of virtualization. Microsoft claimed that virtualization is a nonsense technology 10 years ago - when VMware created the first industry standard virtualization product. Microsoft then claimed live migration is not essential in datacenters. We all know how Microsoft's actions never match it's rhetoric. Cronies of Microsoft (like the author) above either are paid to write gibberish like this or just don't get it.

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 Virt_Dude Dallas

Interesting and telling statement that shows the author's lack of VMware knowledge: "When ESXi was released, VMware called it the future direction of ESX. I wonder if it still holds to that position, given that VMware doesn't seem too interested in seeing how it's being used in the real world." In fact, Maritz was asking only about the FREE downloads of ESXi since ESXi is indeed the future of VMware's base platform in that the console OS version of ESX will no longer be available as an option after 2010. For those who aren't aware, ESXi is different from ESX in that ESX has a RHEL-based console OS while ESXi does not have a console OS at all, freeing up resources for the hypervisor and VMs. As for how many attendees: He fails to mention that VMware split VMworld into 2 seperate conferences (VMWorld Europe runs in February), and although attendance at VMworld NA was around 12,500, attendance at VMWorld Europe was around 4500. So combined, VMworld actually had yet another increase in attendance,.

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 Mr. X

How many fewer attendees were there this year than last year? I would like to see the numbers to back up the "relatively few attendees" statement so we can put this in context.

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 HOW MUCH?

How much did Microsoft pay to this author for this stunt? I am sure the author will lose credibility for future articals. hmmm... all the best and god may bless you with technical abilities

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 Notlikely

Thank-you for you ringing endorsement Hyper-V user. VMware costs less ('spending all that money' is actually a lie - Hype-v costs more TCO by many times over). VMware is the better solution, price, technology-wise, support-wise, and every other measurable way. This is obviously a fud post, Mr. Ballmer.

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 Hyper-V user

I have to agree with the author. I've been running a production hyper-v environment since the rtm. We've added xen for linux support and xenapp support. I've compared them all thoroughly and vmware is nothing special. Performance and stability of all 3 is much the same. vmware is mostly a markeing company. It's a shame so many have gotten sold. Granted there are some high end features, but for most people any of the 3 will perform the same. People should make sure they actually use and test the other 2 before spending a bunch of money they don't need to.

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 Notlikely

More fud from the Redmond machine. Two possibilities: Either virtualization is a paradigm-changing concept that affects the way everything is done in a datacenter, or it's a commodity flash-in-the-pan idea that will soon be relegated to history as just another buzz-word. If it wasn't worth the effort, MS wouldn't being trying so hard to come up with their own product. The market for this technology is still largely untapped and VMware does have a 3 year lead at least in this regard, some features in vSphere won't show up in Hype-v for longer than that I'm sure. Virtualization saves companies tonnes, especially VMware's products because of their high consolidation ratios that blow Hype-v out of the water, so I don't care how much the licenses cost, I'm saving 75% or better the day I virtualize everything with vSphere, not so with Hype-v. (and yes, leaving out the 'r' is intentional). Instead of crying in your beer, and decrying a superior technology like VMware's, do the world a favor and make good software, Microsoft. Exmaple: You're up to version 8 on IE, you've had years to make it better, and Google releases a Chrome plug-in that makes it run 9.6 times faster? People compare VMware to Netscape or Novell of the past, that they will be slowly consumed by the giant. They're executing flawlessly, Hype-v isn't a serious product, and the MS management tool won't be so key in breaking VMware's back. I'm sure managing my VMware environment with it will be feature-limited at best, buggy bloat-ware at worst. So really I'll only manage my Hype-v deployment with it - which by the way will be non-existently small. It sounds like someone's just p-o'd that they only got a 10x10 booth at VMworld. Sour grapes. Instead of crying about it, do us all a favour, lead follow or get out of the way in the virtual arena. So far you're barely even following, and VMware's lead just gets wider and wider. Can't wait until running apps in the cloud doesn't require a Guest OS, patch Tuesdays, a reboot or an m$ license at all. So many MS fanboys and people predicting doom and gloom for VMware like they'll be gone tomorrow. So I'll be the one person that actually calls this one correctly - VMware and/or virtualization will eat Microsoft - there - I just said that.

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 Floppy Disk Chicago

The author is putz! He is obviously a Microsoft bigot and does not understand how the VMware product even works!

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 Virt_Dude Dallas

Just a correction for this article: vSphere was released earlier this year (in April). As for cloud computing being a niche, it's a large enough niche that little companies like IBM, Cisco and Oracle are in the process of creating their own platforms. Pretty sure Microsoft will continue to be king of the desktop, but datacenter infrastructure services will likely be out of their reach within 5 years as cloud vendors develop the ability to run server applications without intervening server operating systems. (The author may want to look more closely at the VMware Spring Source acquisition to really see where they're going.)

Wed, Sep 23, 2009 nostradamus NYC

Oh, just a side note, I am not virtualizing a bunch of lab computers I am virtualizing hundreds of production app servers running on both Linux and Windows servers. We did look at KVM and Hyper-V but neither came close to Xen/XenServer or VMware in features (take a look at the essentials pack for XenServer). After seeing the new KVM management interface from Redhat I must say i will give it a second the future.

Wed, Sep 23, 2009 nostradamus NYC

Yep, Maritz is laughing way too soon. I left VMware for XenServer 5.5 and have no regrets. I am saving a lot of money (even though i still got essentials EE) and the performance of our VM's (especially Linux guests) is much better than the testbed VMware environment. Not sure why people have not yet realized that the horizon is changing and with XenServer, Hyper-V, KVM all offering enterprise class features (and more to come) the technology is no longer a secret. Virtualization is a commodity, VMware knows this and the only way they can prevent the constant errosion of their once protected market is by moving into new markets such as cloud computing.

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