5 Questions For VMworld 2014 to Answer

This will be my first VMworld in many years; I went regularly "back in the day," as we old-timers say (does 50 qualify me for "old-timer" status? I'm not there yet, but will be in a few too-short months), but haven't made any for the last half-decade. We've been running a series of articles on VMworld 2014, and I wanted to add my voice to the list here. Here are some of the questions I'll be asking, hoping to get answered.

  1. How are y'all? I need to get to know you, the readers, once again. I had a strong rapport with readers in my first go-round here, and would like to pick that up again. For me, it's crucial to be talking with you (and for you to be talking with me, too.) I want -- no, I need -- to know what issues are important to you. What do you want to learn from this Web site, and the magazine? What are the biggest problems you find with your virtualized environments? What kinds of how-to's and tutorials would you like to see? What vendors do you like, and which do you avoid? Let's get the dialogue going again.

  2. What's the vibe this year at the show? You can tell a lot about a company by how juiced its customers are. Will there be great excitement at announcements made during the keynotes, or a "been there, heard that" sort of feeling. Genuine applause, or forced applause, led by VMware employees? I want to see how you feel about VMware, in other words.

  3. Meeting the vendors. I'll be taking tons of meetings this year, re-orienting myself with the lay of the virtualization land. Vendors in this space were the most innovative in IT when I moved off the magazine; are they still the most innovative?

  4. What are the most promising areas of growth? Cloud, of course, will get the lion's share of attention. But what's happening in VDI? SDN (an acronym I was only vaguely aware of until recently)? Storage? Backup/Disaster Recovery -- and should those concepts be separated? Have some areas just not progressed much, and have found their niche? It will be interesting to see how much has changed.

  5. Just how much have I forgotten? I feel like a total newbie in virtualization, although I was once well-versed. I'll be playing a lot of catch-up, so forgive any stupid questions coming from me.

Posted by Keith Ward on 08/11/2014 at 12:44 PM0 comments

Red Hat Gets Legit in Virt Space?

Paula Rooney at ZDNet says that Red Hat, with the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4, is a "bona fide virtualization vendor." That's because of the built-in KVM hypervisor.

That's true, but it's also only part of the story. The bigger question is whether third-party vendors will build on top of it, creating a sustainable ecosystem. Right now, very few companies are making products that work with KVM. That's not to say it's a bad hypervisor; quite the opposite. But how many admins want to support another hypervisor, and how many third-party vendors want to port their virtualization products to another platform? That's the big question.

As I reported in an earlier story, some analysts aren't quite so bullish on KVM's ability to gain traction in the market. Others say there's an opportunity to differentiate itself with KVM. I imagine the initial uptake will be with the Linux crowd; those who want to compare performance/functionality to Xen, the former hypervisor that shipped with Linux. But unless vendors develop for it, it's hard to see it going beyond those narrow boundaries.

What do you think? Are you considering RHEL 5.4, specifically for the KVM hypervisor? Would you consider it? Let me know at [email protected].

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/09/2009 at 12:48 PM6 comments

VMworld 2009 Wrap Up: Lost in San Francisco

(Blogging from San Francisco) Here's the most important thing I learned from VMworld San Francisco 2009: VMware 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 this week was about. And there was a parade of third-party vendors on board with that notion, too. 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.

If that's the case, why the cloud emphasis from VMware? In a word: Microsoft. Redmond is catching up, and fast, to Palo Alto in the virtualization space. VMware needs to look like it's keeping its technology lead, like it's pushing the virtualization envelope even further out there. 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 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. Forget lack of tangibles, of new products (at least from VMware) that make attendees tingle. We'll point to the cloud, talk a lot about the future, and hope they 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. 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? Forget it -- Vmware outlawed displays of the technology at the "industry" event. To me, that screams "we don't want customers seeing what they can do!" or how much cheaper those Microsoft and Citrix products are. Trying to stifle the competition that way doesn't become you, VMware.

I've noticed my blogging from the show this week has a distinctly negative cast toward VMware. That certainly wasn't by design; I was very positive during last year's show (and have expressed my admiration more than once toward vSphere, a great product that continues to be best-in-class). I just felt like the show was a giant wall against which VMware was throwing spaghetti, hoping the cloud vision would stick.

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/04/2009 at 12:48 PM15 comments

Of Netbooks and Disney World

(Blogging from VMworld, San Francisco) More random goodness from VMworld:

Netbooks are everywhere here. They are still a pretty small minority, but they're definitely visible. I can see the advantages of lugging around a tiny laptop all day at VMworld. I have a small laptop myself, but even my 13.3" screen Dell can get heavy after eight hours in the halls of Moscone Center.

Microsoft and Citrix each being confined to 10'X10' booths is utterly ridiculous. Let them compete equally, VMware! Not only are the booths ludicrous, but they're not allowed to demo Hyper-V (Microsoft) and XenServer (Citrix). What a joke. It makes VMware look bad -- and scared. Why are they afraid to let customers see what their products can do?

VMware is big on the clouds. The admins I've talked to here, less so. (More to come on this later).

I miss my Mac. I bought a very high-powered Dell laptop to replace my old PowerBook Pro, which served me faithfully for years. I've had more bluescreens in two days here than I had in three years of Apple bliss. I may soon be asking for a refund.

It's hard to believe that VMworld requires session attendees to have their badges scanned before going in. Greg Shields wrote about this recently, and he's spot on. Do away with this hideous practice, VMware, I beg you. The lines to get in sessions, because of this scanning nonsense, is appalling. It's like standing in line at a movie theater or Disney World. Is this the atmosphere VMware wants to create?

The lines to get into the hands-on labs are even worse. In a way, it's good for VMware that so many folks want to try out its stuff. But more standing in line means more grumbling, more unhappy campers.

Most of the juice at this show is around the vendors. Lots of announcements from them, mostly concerning new apps that extend the capabilities of VI/vSphere. I love the innovation of this industry. The ways they've found to use virtualization for previously un-thought-of tasks is inspiring.

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/03/2009 at 12:48 PM6 comments

VMware's Maritz Plays the Bad Cop

(Blogging from San Francisco) VMware CEO Paul Maritz had a very interesting press conference at VMworld earlier this week, giving insight into his (and by extension, his company's) thinking on various topics.

First, I wouldn't expect vCenter to support Hyper-V or XenServer -- ever. 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. What that says to me is that it ain't happening.

Maritz also said some harsh things about competitors, and even 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 the XenServer platform and suite of products built on top are a non-factor in the industry. Citrix, he said, "has tiny marketshare" in the virtual space today, basically laughing it off.

Maritz may want to check that attitude at the door next time, though. 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 it's cheaper than vSphere -- Maritz may be laughing too soon.

What was more strange was what he said about chip maker AMD. Asked about being able to move VMs between disparate (i.e. Intel and AMD) processors between clouds, which isn't possible, Maritz said "nobody's building clouds on [AMD] architecture ... it's all on x86 ... that war's over." Wow. I wonder what the folks in the large AMD booth on the show floor thought of that.

(Update: I erred on my characterization of Maritz' comment about AMD. He did not knock AMD. What he said was that the cloud will be built on the x86 platform and none other. He did not imply that AMD's x86 chips aren't in use; they are. The "war" he referred to was x86 vs. non-x86 architecture. The fault here is totally my own, and I wanted to apologize for the misunderstanding on my part. -- KW.)

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 they're 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. Yeah, 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 it doesn't seem real interested in seeing how it's being used in the real world.

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/03/2009 at 12:48 PM12 comments

Standout VMworld Products

(Blogging from San Francisco) The show floor at VMworld had a distinct feel this year: a plethora of products around cloud computing and desktop virtualization. There were at least double the number of products in both categories as last year, and it felt like more. Here's a review of a few that I found most intriguing.

Wyse Technology. Wyse is doing some of the coolest stuff out there, and had a couple of killer products. It announced the Wyse P20 Workstation class zero client, one of the first clients to take advantage of PC-over-IP (PCoIP), VMware's high-speed protocol for delivering remote desktops to end-user devices. PCoIP shows great promise for things like 3D graphics, and Wyse wasted no time in getting a zero client to market.

The other Wyse product that excited me was its PocketCloud mobile application. PocketCloud (a $29.99 download from the Apple AppStore) lets you access a PC or virtual desktop on the iPhone or iPod Touch. VMware CTO Stephen Herrod's keynote showed a demo of PocketCloud, and I was blown away by the technology. Having your desktop available on the phone opens up new possibilities for virtualization management.

VKernel Wastefinder. Some products are so simple, yet powerful, that they give you an "Oy! Why didn't I think of that?!" moment. That happened to me at the VKernel booth, when I saw Wastefinder, part of its new Optimization Pack.

Wastefinder basically scavenges your storage, looking for orphaned virtualization leftovers. And it's amazing what it finds. Some of the virtual items admins create and forget include snapshots, templates and zombie VMs. They end up hanging around your storage, taking up space and serving no useful purpose. One VKernel client reclaimed 4 terabytes of storage just from getting rid of those deadbeats. Definitely worth a look (as is the new Optimization Pack, which combines three apps into one virtual appliance).

Neocleus. I've been developing a keen interest in the way hypervisors are evolving (see my recent story on the subject), and so stopped by the Neocleus booth.

Neocleus is the first to market with a legitimate bare-metal client hypervisor for desktop virtualization -- in fact, its NeoSphere product is now at version 2.1. It should be noted that Citrix and VMware are both working on a bare-metal client hypervisor, but they're not yet available.

Imagine running a locked-down corporate OS and a personal OS more opened up on a user's laptop or desktop. Or running an older Windows OS, for application compatibility, on the same machine that's running Windows 7, to get the VDI advantages and upgrades inherent to that OS. You can do it, right now, with Neocleus.

Again, this is just the barest sampling of what's available, but I'm confident in saying that innovation is at its peak in the virtualization market.

(Full disclosure: I have no relationship, financial or in any other way (except as a reporter covering the industry), with these companies. I just know what I like.)

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/03/2009 at 12:48 PM11 comments

VMworld: Crystal Clear View

(Blogging from San Francisco) VMware CTO Dr. Stephen Herrod took the stage at VMworld this morning to deliver his customary Day 2 keynote. As is also customary, his presentation was more informative and entertaining than that of CEO Paul Maritz, who kicked off the conference yesterday.

Herrod focused first on the emerging desktop virtualization market, talking up VMware View, his company's offering in that space. "VMware View enables desktop as a service ... it's about your personal computing environment," Herrod stated.

The promise of View, Herrod said, was about having your desktop, including personalization information, applications and operating system, available on any enabled device. That message was the same as last year's show, but with more details available.

Herrod said that VMware has in excess of 7,000 customers using View, with more than a million virtualized desktops. Most of those are Windows Vista, Windows XP and Windows 7. VMware is looking at three delivery methods of these VMs: WAN, LAN and Local (including offline).

Obviously, having a desktop move with a user, and across different devices, is complicated from the administration perspective. Herrod emphasized that a goal of View is to make it easy to secure, patch and enforce policies in that scenario. "IT can wrap the same policies around the environment," Herrod said.

To make the user experience as real-time as possible, VMware is shipping its PC-over-IP (PCoIP) product "later this year," Herrod said. PCoIP is a software protocol that speeds up the delivery of the remote desktop over a network, enabling things like 3D graphics that are hard to deliver remotely today. PCoIP was developed from its partnership with Teradici.

The coolest demo of the keynote was a demonstration of the client virtualization platform (CVP). CVP is a bare-metal client hypervisor -- it shims underneath the OS onto the hardware, just like a server hypervisor. Bare-metal client hypervisors allow things like multiple OSs to be run on a single device.

The demo showed a standard smartphone running a Visa application. The phone used Windows CE as the core OS, but the application itself was running in Android. Android was also loaded on the phone, something formerly not available on phones. There were Android-only apps running on the Android desktop, while Windows CE had its own suite of applications. Very, very cool stuff.

Herrod then followed up on Maritz' cloud theme from yesterday, expanding its scope, and again emphasizing the importance of partners to build on top of VMware's vSphere platform.

I'm hoping VMware can convince Herrod to start doing the Day 1 keynote at future VMworlds.

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/02/2009 at 12:48 PM1 comments

VMworld Highlights, Day 2

(Blogging from San Francisco) -- Some highlights from Herrod's keynote, and other notes from Day 2:

The crowd was much more sparse than yesterday's; it's a shame, because the keynote was much better than Maritz'.

VMware is trying hard to save money on food. For the second day, the pre-keynote breakfast was danish and fruit. Not a big deal, but no eggs, no pancakes, no bacon? And exactly the same as yesterday's menu? It's like staying at a Super 8 motel -- and no, that's not a compliment.

Some very cool uses of VMotion are available now, and in the coming months. VMotion is VMware's technology to move VMs from one server to another with no downtime, no disruption to the VM or the network. VMotion for power usage, for example moves VMs around to reduce power to servers -- for instance, if there are a few VMs on a server, they may be moved to another server so the original server, or parts of it, can be shut down to conserve power. Initial reports, according to VMware, are showing up to 20 percent power savings.

Another important, upcoming product announced is vCenter Configuration Control. This management tool analyzes changes to a network or application, letting administrators more quickly pinpoint the source of a problem. In the demo, a problem was caused by a change in a VLAN setting. Using Config Control, the issue was located in moments, rather than having to dig through a server or network in a process that could take hours or longer. It's expected to be released in the first half of next year, Herrod said.

There's a concert by the '80s supergroup Foreigner tonight. Too bad for me -- I hate Foreigner.

Some are whispering that attendance is closer to 11,000, not the nearly 13,000 Maritz announced yesterday. The venue is smaller than last year's show at Las Vegas, making it hard to tell. But it seems packed to me.

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/02/2009 at 12:48 PM0 comments

Live from VMworld: Short on New, Long on Vision

(Blogging from San Francisco) Big announcements were in short supply at this morning's keynote session at VMworld in San Francisco. Instead, CEO Paul Maritz laid out a roadmap discussing the evolution of virtualization, and peeked into a cloudy future.

Maritz, whose coming-out party was at last year's watershed VMworld show in Las Vegas, spent the first part of his presentation discussing the functionality of vSphere -- much like he did last year.

The past, present and future of virtualization was part of a mosaic Maritz described as the "Virtualization Journey." It starts with vSphere, the underlying infrastructure; continues with vCenter, the management product; moves to vCloud, which is concerned with both internal and external clouds, and bridging them; and ends with VMware View, the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) product that Maritz envisions as a technology that presents a user's desktop environment on any endpoint device, whether a thin client, laptop, cellphone and so on.

Maritz then spent a lot of time discussing the SpringSource acquisition, and how it will fold into the overall cloud services strategy.

Overall, the keynote was as anticlimactic as any I've heard. The only product announcement was vCloud Express, a service offering more for non-enterprise businesses that need an economical and speedy way to add cloud abilities to limited datacenter.

Perhaps that should be expected, though, since all the big announcements -- vSphere, SpringSource, etc. -- were made weeks, months and up to a year ago. It's never a good sign for a keynote when the speaker spends a half hour reviewing the announcements that were made at the same conference a year ago.

The high point of the keynote wasn't even given by Maritz. COO Tod Nielson opened the festivities with a short presentation at which he noted that VMware is in 96 percent of the Fortune 1000. VMware's effort got that percentage up to 97. Neilson got a big laugh from the crowd when he listed the names of every company in that category that did not yet have VMware installed.

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/01/2009 at 12:48 PM0 comments

VMworld Attendance Down; Cloud Up

(Blogging from San Francisco) -- VMworld Day 1 Randoms:

Paul Maritz announced at the keynote that attendance was 12,448. That's down from the record 14,000-plus last year, but not as steep a decline as I might have expected. In the recession, I've heard regularly of shows that were down 30 to 40 percent and more. In all, it shows that virtualization is still a thriving technology, and folks are still passionate about it.

The emphasis on the cloud permeates everything here this week. But how many IT shops are investigating the technology and have a plan in place to start using the cloud? I know it's big in some industries, but on the whole, I'd be surprised if IT admins are that willing to give up control of a potentially significant portion of their infrastructure. I'd love to hear your feedback on this; I'm at [email protected]

Interesting nuggets from Maritz' keynote this morning:

  • He said that VMware had 1,500 engineers working for two full years on vSphere; that equates to more total man-hours put in on that project than worked on any single version of Windows during Maritz' time at Microsoft in the 1980s.
  • There have been an average of 20,000-30,000 downloads of vSphere per week since its introduction.
  • Maritz said vSphere's performance has been ramped up to the point that it can handle more than 350,000 I/Os per second. That means, he said, that there's nothing that can't be virtualized anymore.
  • There was a huge emphasis on partners during the keynote, and a special session for journalists that followed soon after. A parade came through from companies like Verizon, AT&T, HP, IBM, SpringSource and many others. VMware is quickly building a huge cloud ecosystem.

The Exhibit Hall feels just as stuffed as last year. More cloud computing vendors (of course), more desktop virtualization companies (of course). My favorite gimmick so far: the caricature artist. I'd be afraid to get my caricature drawn -- it might look like me.

Posted by Keith Ward on 09/01/2009 at 12:48 PM1 comments

Oracle Kills Virtual Iron

What is Oracle up to? This story from The Register says that Oracle is killing development of Virtual Iron products and even suspending shipments of Virtual Iron to new customers.

To catch you up quickly: Oracle announced last month that it was buying SMB virtualization vendor Virtual Iron. Virtual Iron has a small but important role to play in the virtualization community, since it targeted the lower tier of shops. At the time, I wondered how Oracle would work in that market, since it's primarily an enterprise player.

This, of course, was on top of the previous mont's bombshell that Oracle was buying Sun. Oracle got a lot more out of Sun than just virtualization -- Java, MySQL, Solaris and servers come to mind -- but I'm sure Sun's virtualization products, especially its management ones, were an important part of the deal.

Now, it looks like Oracle doesn't want much of what Virtual Iron has. The obvious question: then why buy the company? This is a real kick in the gut for companies that are using Virtual Iron, and understandably nervous about support going forward. It seems like Oracle moved on this really quickly; it's only been a month since the buyout was made public, and they've already decided to mothball Virtual Iron products.

According to the Register article, Oracle isn't even allowing partners to sell new licenses to customers after June 30. So those of you standardized on Virtual Iron will need to move to another solution beginning next month -- Oracle's cutting you loose. I just don't get why Oracle wants to create so much animosity among the Virtual Iron customer base it just bought into.

Oracle has a reputation of arrogance when it comes to virtualization; look at their licensing and support for non-Oracle products if you need a refresher. This latest action surely won't help that perception.

If you have a Virtual Iron implementation, I'd love to hear from you on this topic. Are you angry? Frustrated? Ready to explode? Unfazed?

Posted by Keith Ward on 06/22/2009 at 12:48 PM4 comments

Citrix Adds Virtualization Focus to Certs

Citrix is expanding its top-level administrator certifications to focus more on virtualization. It's a step that makes sense for a company working hard to claw out its space in the virtualization market, and has some very intriguing products.

It's adding the specialization onto its flagship Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer (CCEE) and Citrix Certified Integration Architect (CCIA) credentials, adding "for Virtualization" onto the title.

The certifications will be available starting in the Fall, according to Citrix. Current CCEE and CCIA holders have an upgrade path: CCEEs will need to pass the "A15 -- Engineering a Citrix Virtualization Solution" exam to add the virtualization moniker, while the higher-level CCIA will have to pass that exam and "A16 -- Architecting a Citrix Virtualization Solution."

The upgrade paths expire June 30, 2010; after that time, candidates need to begin from the beginning. CCEE is aimed at the engineers and high-level administrators implementing virtualization; the CCIA is targeted more at designers and architects.

The question is how valuable certification is these days. Some folks say the days of certification are passing; I disagree. Especially in the current environment, it never hurts to set yourself apart from the crowd with a credential. At the very least, I'm convinced it can move your resume from the dump pile in the HR manager's office to the "interview" pile. It demonstrates you have at least a baseline knowledge of the technology in question. And the CCEE and CCIA are much beyond that; it's not a Microsoft Certified Professional equivalent. If you work in a Citrix environment, consider adding the virtualization sub-specialty -- I have a feeling it could give you an edge.

Posted by Keith Ward on 06/18/2009 at 12:48 PM4 comments