VMworld Observations that will Impact our Business in 2013

After having some time to unwind after VMworld, several large issues have come to surface in my thoughts I’d like to share and get your feedback on. These thoughts come from conversations I had on the show floor with end users and listening in on presentations from industry experts.

1. The industry will continue to struggle on delivering on the promise of converged infrastructure

Many large firms and small startups have been using the phrase “Converged Infrastructure” to explain the notion of pools of assets that can deliver storage, server and networking resources to applications. These assets are to be managed as a single entity that can be provisioned, monitored and managed from a single vantage point.

First and foremost, this year’s experience on the show floor was more mind-boggling than several years past. The amount of hardware, management tools and analytics engines out there was incredible. The only winner here was Freeman – the company delivering and setting up most of the booths on the floor. The jargon coming from the marketing speak from vendors all said the same thing:
a. optimize your servers
b. avoid VDI boot storms
c. modernize your path to the cloud
I also attended a customer presentation that told the audience about their datacenter woes. They had a virtualized environment that was so overtaxed; the latencies it was hitting would induce a DR level failover. This scenario isn’t quite showing that datacenters are self-healing, and self-adjusting. It is incredibly clear that the notion of Converged Infrastructure has plenty of room to grow.

2. Managing virtualized infrastructure will continue to be too complex

This is related to my first observation, but a little more tangible. Just as the real estate market runs off of “location, location, location”, it was clear that the virtualized datacenter runs off of “reporting, reporting, reporting”. I can’t count the number of 65” LCD screens I saw with 20 point font reports displayed on them. After the second day on the floor, they just looked like a bright field of gray to me. This got me thinking: why in the world does a datacenter administrator need all of these reports? What happened to the ease of fault or bottleneck isolation and orchestration tools to make it all better?

Now, I’ll give credit where credit is due. Steve Herrod, VMware’s CTO, showed off some pretty cool tools during his keynote speech. Being able to see a graphic representation of the balance between two active sites is nice. But, we all know that the devil is in the details. At a high level, two data centers may be in balance, but a key component underneath the hood may be in a high-speed wobble. Getting at these issues quickly and concisely is key, and no virtualization administrator I spoke to felt as if they are getting automated out of a job any time soon.

3. The year VDI arrives – almost

It is getting to the point now, that the times I’ve heard “This is the year VDI arrives” is about to pass the times I’ve heard “This is the year tape backup dies”. While it is getting better, and there are some really cool demos I saw at VMworld, I strongly believe we’ll see VDI as a nascent slice of the mobile workforce device market share in 2012. Don’t get me wrong: I want to see this happen. My firm’s solutions have a strong affinity to VDI, and we make them screaming fast and very affordable. That being said, there is a ton of work to be done to get the acquisition cost and the operational economics for VDI to work. Customers are still telling us that storage takes upwards of 40% of the budget for a VDI implementation. Are you kidding me? More ultrabooks for everyone in the meanwhile, please. I guess it is a good thing Leo didn’t dump the PSG business unit over at HP. HP does by the way, have a very nice POE based desktop client I saw. Very clean, but putting an $800,000 3PAR P10000 behind these clients doesn’t add up.

4. Managing Big Data is the same as it has been, but different

Apparently; everyone’s data got really big all of the sudden. Who knew? Being in the data storage business, I love what Big Data stands for. What I am not sure I understand, is how is the advent of Big Data making things so dramatically different for the IT guy? Users will still need blazing fast infrastructure running at low latencies and large repositories for unstructured data. This sounds awfully familiar to what we in the IT market have been working on for many years now. What appears to be different is the confluence of cost, performance and ability to leverage cloud based solutions to answer bigger questions that we’ve been able to in the past. That’s the big deal – not the big data itself. So, in the end, yes, big data should help business drive big earnings, but to the IT team in the boiler room, managing all this data will likely look very familiar.

I am curious what you thought about VMworld and the state of our industry as we continue our journey into a virtualized world.  Feel free to share below.

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