Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reflections on VMworld 2012

“The Clone Wars” or “The Battle of Five [Platform] Armies”

Do you remember the Mac vs PC platform wars? Novell vs Microsoft? Token ring vs TCP/IP? iPhone vs Android? Java vs .NET (vs C#)? Betamax vs VHS?
Winners are “chosen” by developers and market share, and VMware has both and has a culture of innovation to boot. You should see the partner ecosystem these guys have created at VMworld 2012—it’s stunning and a bit overwhelming—and they have about 50% of the total x86 market share (source: IDC says 60% of x86 servers are virtual as of 2012, and VMware claims 80% market share in the virtual x86 market). As I see it, the Five Armies are Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, and VMware; VMware’s advantage is they’re at the infrastructure layer.

A while back I read this rant of a former Googler (warning: it’s got some profanity). The upshot: Amazon decoupled databases and applications, and Google hasn’t. What has that got to do with VMware? Well, I see signs that vCloud Director is similarly using software APIs to integrate and automate, "decoupling" the typically manual processes. What does this mean? It means infrastructure players who don’t integrate well with VMware risk becoming dial-up devices in a broadband world. For example, incumbent SAN players who provide only a base level of integration with VMware may lose their front-runner status as a result.

Innovation @ VMware

I had the opportunity to attend a session here at VMworld where Julia Austin shared some of VMware's secrets of innovation. Internally they use a venture capital model to fund “wild and crazy” ideas that “just might work.” Basically, someone with a crazy idea who’s crazy enough to bet their job gives the pitch. If successful, they quit their job and work under the CTO organization to make it happen. And they get equity in their idea.

One of the most fascinating ideas I saw integrated SocialCast with the infrastructure to leverage information management techniques from social networks to eliminate redundant information, emphasize hierarchy and connectivity, and provide domain relevant alerting. Think of seeing a post once, with 10 "likes." One of the examples provided was loss of an NFS datastore. A typical question might be: which components were affected? The first server posts a message on the walls of followers, and the 10 others "like" it. Now you (and anyone else interested in the events) knows exactly who (er, what) is affected.

I also learned VMware publishes experimental tools—they work, but are not supported—as “flings.”

Another example of their culture of innovation involved the story of how VMware Fusion was a skunk works project that eventually saw the light of day.

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