VMworld 2012: Back To The Future (Of The Datacenter): A Management Odyssey

I had a great time, as always, at VMworld last week. My seventh time was busier than ever. If I had to summarize my gut feeling about this year, it was VMware’s return to the future of the datacenter. Yes, there was plenty of cloud-ness, but the main thrust of VMware’s message was: there’s a lot left to virtualize, encapsulate, and mobilize in the datacenter, and we’re the best company to help you do it…whether or not you’re heading for the clouds. The cloud isn’t everything, nor should it be. It’s one of many paths to a more efficient, responsive, and available IT infrastructure. Companies aren’t going from datacenters and managed services to the cloud in one monolithic transition. They’re looking at everything from their virtualized workloads to their big databases to their productivity apps and asking two questions: Can I run them cheaper, faster, and better in-house first? And, when will it make more sense to run them in my or someone else’s cloud? Part of that decision is cost — will cloud save money?

A bigger question, though, is: Who decides? Will application teams and app developers go to the cloud themselves, without waiting for IT? In many cases, they already are. Or will today’s virtualization admins lead the way? VMware’s betting on both, and it used VMworld this year to arm its core audience —VMware admins — with a strategy. My colleague Glenn O’Donnell calls VMware’s core audience the Illuminati (heh), and VMworld is certainly designed for them.

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Optimism For The Gelsinger Era At VMware

The most notable news to come out of the VMworld conference last week was the coronation of Pat Gelsinger as the new CEO of VMware. His tenure officially started over the weekend, on September 1, to be exact.

For those who don’t know Pat’s career, he gained fame at Intel as the personification of the x86 processor family. It’s unfair to pick a single person as the father of the modern x86 architecture, but if you had to pick just one person, it’s probably Pat. He then grew to become CTO, and eventually ran the Digital Enterprise Group. This group accounted for 55% of Intel’s US$37.586B in revenue according to its 2008 annual report, the last full year of Pat’s tenure. EMC poached him from Intel in 2009, naming him president of the Information Infrastructure Products group. EMC’s performance since then has been very strong, with a 17.5% YoY revenue increase in its latest annual report. Pat’s group contributed 53.7% of that revenue. While he’s a geek at heart (his early work), he proved without a doubt that he also has the business execution chops (his later work). Both will serve him well at VMware, especially the latter.

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My VMworld Take-Away #1: Wanova Mirage Matters But Employee Freedom Remains Elusive

End User Computing is at the Root of the VMware Family Tree

Examine the roots of the VMware family tree, and End User Computing is the longest root of 'em all. It's where it all began, back in 1999 with a cool little product that let me run Windows on top of Linux. It was like magic for software customer demos of complex enterprise apps. I could royally screw up a demo environment an hour before a demo for a $15M deal by adding just one field to the screen that the customer demanded to see, but instead of soiling my underwear in a panic, I could go back to my most recently saved state of less than an hour before. Brilliant! It was a tool for me to be more effective in my job. Hold that thought.

So with this heritage in mind and a general respect for VMware's products honed over the past 15 years of growth and change, and fantastic tools for I&O professionals to manage virtualized environments with, I was delighted to see End User Computing be the focus of general session demos and breakout sessions. I was looking forward to learning more about Wanova Mirage to see if it could help on the employee freedom and personal innovation front. Those of you following this space know what I think of what I like to call Soviet Bloc Virtual Desktop Infrastructures.
 
Virtuosity as the Root of Innovation and the Dangers of Hosted VDI
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