Citrix Rallies Desktop Virtualization Troops with VDI-in-a-Box 5

After quietly sitting on Kaviza since its acquisition last May, Citrix is getting some mileage out of the company by introducing an all-new version of Citrix VDI-in-a-box, and combining the new product with its cloud-based support offering, Citrix GoToManage, which will be used to remotely monitor and support virtual desktop deployments at multiple sites or customer locations.

Also bundled in with this package is news that Citrix has introduced the Citrix Solution Advisor Program, known as SMB Specialist. SMB Specialists will be given access to a vast set of sales tools, free online training and pre-sales support created to help this new group of channel partners--which Citrix will begin certifying in January--engage and service SMB customers.

Citrix further announced that its new SMB initiative also includes widespread support for thousands of Citrix-ready products from business partners such as Dell and Wyse that will offer validated hardware and software solutions consumed by small and midsize businesses.

"The combination of Citrix VDI-in-a-Box 5, Citrix GoToManage, the support of a strong Citrix Ready ecosystem, and a new SMB Specialist channel program, all help to extend the benefits of going virtual at the desktop to tens of thousands of small and medium businesses worldwide," the company said.

This announcement, made at the Citrix Summit partner training even, comes at a good time for Citrix, which along with VMware has recently been under high-profile industry pressure from former Citrix employee Simon Crosby and many other critics questioning the true value of VDI due to its expense and complexity.

Citrix acquired Kaviza after president and CEO Mark Templeton met with company officials and admired the efficient, affordable technology behind VDI-in-a-Box, which at the time was renowned for coming in at $500 a seat due to its simple, all-in-one architecture which reportedly eliminated over 60 percent of VDI infrastructures, including management servers--and especially shared SANs. It did this by creating a grid of off-the-shelf servers with direct-attached storage, which clicked nicely with SMB environments.

Citrix says VDI-in-a-Box features the company's HDX technology, adds new wizards to simplify and speed up virtual desktop management, and offers an expanded architecture that supports Hyper-V, XenServer and vSphere ESX and ESXi.

Virtualization Review CTO Blogger and former Kaviza CTO Krishna Subramanian is VP, marketing & business development, SMB, Citrix, and was granted the first quote at the end of the Citrix press release, which indicates that she will likely be in charge of the new unit.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 10/25/2011 at 12:48 PM0 comments


Flash Caching Overrides I/O Bottlenecks on Physical, Virtualized Servers Alike

These days, there is a cavalcade of new products designed to eliminate the I/O bottlenecks that are bogging down application performance for so many virtualization users. Nevex, a self-funded company to date, is one of the latest market entries to unveil such a market-changing product with the introduction of Nevex CacheWorks 1.0, which the company says employs an innovative approach to Flash caching that solves the storage I/O bottleneck using existing IT infrastructures.

CacheWorks is said to enhance the performance of business apps running on physical servers along with VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V VMs. As what Nevex calls the first-ever focused server-level caching software solution, CacheWorks is a file-based cache integrated with the Windows Server operating system that provides "industry-unique control over the Windows memory cache to create a multi-level caching solution that can allow applications to exceed the performance of running fully on Flash."

The key to CacheWorks performance is its ability to empower admins by enabling flexible control that expedites the movement of specific data by application, file type, and location. Nevex says no other caching solution can "proactively optimize the cache for application-specific I/O acceleration."

CacheWorks installs on physical and virtual servers and employs a Flash/SSD to intelligently cache active application data. I/O-bound Windows applications such as databases, business intelligence, mail servers and transactional web servers reportedly run up to five times faster because they are not constrained by the slower speed of hard disk storage or latency to back-end storage.

Although Nevex is charging $2,495 per physical server for CacheWorks, it says it will initially sell direct to customers for $1,495, enabling them to "take advantage of introductory pricing and first-touch service until Nevex channel partners are fully established."

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 10/20/2011 at 12:48 PM0 comments


VMware Ups the Management Ante with vCenter Operations

VMware knows that it has to stay in front of the very rapidly evolving management market if it is to keep its cutting-edge customers happy and maintain its leadership position in the private and public cloud space. Toward that end, it took the wraps off three product suites that use two magical management words: "simplify" and "automate."

The meat of this announcement is an enhanced version of VMware vCenter Operations, along with the unveiling of new VMware vFabric Application Management and VMware IT Business Management suites. The company says the two suites further separate VMware from outdated distributed physical systems and inefficient, silo-based management solutions, while enabling IT to broker services to its businesses.

Citing "constant change at the infrastructure and application levels," VMware director of product marketing for management, Rob Smoot says IT has to remain competitive with the outside world because "Executives ask IT how expensive it is to provide storage because they have rate cards from third parties."

The VMware vCenter Operations Management Suite has been around since March of this year. The updated version is tasked with continuing its efforts to converge management disciplines with deeper integration of vCenter Capacity IQ and vCenter Configuration Manager. It will do that with the aid of new dashboards and smart alerts that "correlate performance and capacity information to identify emerging problems, help customers right-size their infrastructures and identify and remediate performance issues caused by configuration changes."

In this environment, customers will benefit by optimizing their infrastructure operations such as security management and disaster recovery based on application needs. Smoot says over 500 VMware business partners are currently selling vCenter Operations.

The vFabric Application Management Suite offers two solutions that integrate application disciplines and support an "active application management" approach created to help IT match business demand for app changes, while more efficiently maintaining app performance and availability in dynamic environments.

vFabric AppDirector "standardizes and automates the release/deployment of apps to any cloud through easy-to-create blueprints with standardized templates, component libraries, and deployment workflows." The vFabric Application Management Suite is optimized for vFabric, but is extensible to other frameworks. Obviously sensitive to claims that VMware is too virtualization-focused, Smoot says the vFabric Application Management Suite "expands beyond virtualization, but at the same time puts a laser focus on virtualization in the cloud."

The VMware IT Business Management Suite is something of a new approach for VMware, in that it makes it easier for CIOs to get the most value from the IT investments and communicate IT's value in language that is readily understood by business. The suite is composed of three modules that "aggregate data from a wide range of financial sources and apply analytics and modeling to offer a single pane of glass into IT capital, operating and service expenses with meaningful metrics and reports."

Now, CIOs will be able to make informed sourcing decisions based on cost, risk, performance and compliance in order to operate as a broker of IT services in full alignment with business needs. It sounds like a good idea that somebody should have thought up well before this whole virtualization and cloud thing developed such a head of steam.

The updated vCenter Operations Management Suite will be offered in four editions to meet the IT operations needs of small and midsized businesses and enterprises, and is expected to be available in early 2012 with prices starting at $50 per VM. The updates will also be available as a free upgrade for current vCenter Operations customers.

vFabric Application Performance Manager is expected to be available in Q4 2011 with prices starting at $360 per VM. vFabric AppDirector is expected to be available in early 2011.

The IT Business Management Suite is expected to be available in Q4, 2011 and will be licensed per user.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 10/18/2011 at 12:48 PM6 comments


Jack Spencer Saves Big Bucks with DataCore SANsymphony-V

Jack Spencer is VP of operations and CIO of the non-profit American Society Health-System Pharmacists. Last Fall, his IBM Fast T 700 storage server, which had been in place for about five years and upgraded numerous times, started to fail during the registration period of one of the organization's national meetings that produce a large portion of its yearly operating budget.

"We had a lot of pain with IBM trying to get something done with that, and of course it turned into more of a sales call than any kind of a support thing, so it came to the point where we knew there had to be a better way," Spencer said.

Fortunately, he was able to stabilize the Fast T 700--which had a controller that was failing and several bad drives that were being masked by the controller's symptoms--it could complete the meeting's registration duties. He then immediately went to work on crafting a new system, which involved implementing a SANsymphony-V storage virtualization software system that used HP EVA disk arrays. DataCore refers to SANsymphony-V as a "storage hypervisor."

Even though his new storage configuration was up and running, Spencer didn't want to throw out the Fast T 700 because it was still usable, and DataCore told him he could put that plus some Dell MD series disk arrays behind SANsymphony-V.

"DataCore gave me a solution that allowed me to keep all those resources, and not get them out of the architecture, but still use them, maybe not in production, but in a test environment," he said. "So now we don't see the new system as an individual piece of equipment that has storage--we just see storage, and I'll tell you, the training curve for my LAN crew who manages that has decreased by 80 percent at least."

Spencer said his new system manages, optimizes and spans all the different price-points and performance levels of electronic and mechanical storage, including electronic memory, SSDs, and disk devices. It also features automated disk tiering, which automatically relocates disk blocks among pools of different storage devices. This enables large workloads to keep operating at peak speeds, while less critical and infrequently accessed disk blocks naturally gravitate towards lower cost disks.

The VP/CIO is very pleased with disk tiering. "So I get the date and the data that's aging, move it off the expensive storage, and it's a little bit slower when I want to call it up, but it could be faster if I wanted to put more higher speed storage down there too, so the tiering is great," he declared.

ROI-wise, Spencer said he saved between $50,000 and $100,000 alone by being able to keep using his legacy storage systems. He claimed to have saved another $20,000 to $30,000 by slashing his training requirements.

Does he go along with the "storage hypervisor" characterization of SANsymphony-V?

"Oh absolutely. I can go out and look at whatever storage I want and just throw it in behind," he stated. "It's pretty straight-forward, pretty simple, and pretty elegant.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 10/13/2011 at 12:48 PM2 comments


The Inevitable Rise of Hyper-V

The Hyper-V tide is rising. Not rapidly, like a tsunami, but steadily, like a flood.

On the vendor side, Veeam just announced their support for the Microsoft hypervisor, and VMTurbo has done the same. Ditto OpenStack and Virsto Software. You can also include Emulex, Quest, Desktone and the OpenNebula open source project. The list goes on with Microsoft business partners Cisco, Dell, and HP. Other companies, such as Unidesk have announced future support, and the numbers will only grow.

On the user side, more and more Microsoft customers are taking advantage of their access to Hyper-V through Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, and Redmond has rewarded them by building in dynamic memory and Remote FX graphics for VDI desktops. Things will only get better when Windows 8 and System Center 2012 debut.

The thing about Hyper-V that customers really love--and VMware no doubt detests--is that it's cheap. Cheap as in inexpensive, not cheap as in it doesn't work. The fact is, Hyper-V users realize going in that they are not getting the capabilities of ESXi, and they don't care, because they know Hyper-V works for their particular environments, and most importantly, the price is right.

Things will only get more interesting as more and more companies become multi-hypervisor shops and ESXi and Hyper-V start competing in close quarters. The thing is, of course, that Hyper-V doesn't have to outperform ESXi in order to prosper and propagate. All it has to do is keep winning the expectation battle and rising with the tide.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 10/11/2011 at 12:48 PM7 comments


F5 Survey Says ITaaS Catching On

F5 Networks has been hot lately with its BIG-IP family of integrated application delivery services, so like a lot of companies that get on a roll, it decided to do a survey that combines self interest with questionable news value. The title of this survey sounds VMware-esque: The F5 Networks 2011 Journey to ITaaS Study. What it basically says is users think the static datacenter model is evolving into the dynamic datacenter because users like selecting and self-provisioning IT services on demand, and they dislike dealing internally with problems related to complex applications and myriad user types.

The good news, F5 says, is that modern enterprises are successfully using virtualization to consolidate systems and reduce costs. The not-so-good news is that virtualization is putting them back in the complex morass of managing IT services, while putting pressure on IT organizations to expedite the delivery of applications to market by provisioning compute resources more quickly.

Before we get to the results, it should be noted that this survey was conducted this past July by MarketTools, Inc., and included 538 responses from enterprise IT pros.

Now, some sample results, which are hardly revelatory:

According to F5, "The survey found that at least 67 percent of enterprises have implemented, or are in the process of implementing IaaS and PaaS, and that 15 percent of enterprises have implemented or are in the process of implementing chargeback capabilities, setting the stage for full-scale ITaaS across the enterprise. In addition, nearly 75 percent of respondents believe that the shift to ITaaS will take place in the next three to five years."

The study also notes that three out of four IT managers say their organization's philosophy and needs align with an ITaaS framework, and 80 percent of IT managers believe that ITaaS will become "mainstream."

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 10/05/2011 at 12:48 PM5 comments


Is the Cloud Killing Mainframe Jobs?

In the course of researching and writing my upcoming mainframe cloud story, I learned that there's a widespread belief that it's becoming more and more difficult to find workers with the skillset required to operate and maintain mainframe computers. That notion is substantiated in a 2010 survey sponsored by mainframe software maker CA Technologies, which claimed: "There's an emerging consensus that the IT industry as a whole simply isn't doing enough to promote mainframe database career opportunities to recent graduates. Just as importantly, a significant number of IT executives are looking to vendors to help them find the next generation of mainframe specialists."

So is there a crisis or not? It seems hard to believe that especially at a time when jobs are so valued -- and so scarce -- nobody would want to be trained for good jobs managing mainframes.

Bill Reeder, Linux and Cloud Computing Leader for System z at IBM, doesn't believe that mainframe skills are in short supply, and he gives two reasons why: First, if a company acquires an additional mainframe, it doesn't double its staff of mainframe experts and, in fact, it may not add to it at all.

Second, in recognition of the aging IT population, IBM worked with more than 600 universities around the world to create the IBM Academic Initiative, which it describes as "a global program that facilitates the collaboration between IBM and educators to teach students the information technology skills they need to be competitive and keep pace with changes in the workplace." There's no charge for this program.

According to the 2011 Computerworld Salary Survey, the average salary for a computer operator/lead computer operator in the Pacific region of the United States with less than 10 years of experience went up 10.2 percent from 2010 to $47,000, while the national average for these positions climbed 2.3 percent to $53,813.

Results of the 2011 Payscale.com salary survey in the United States reveal a different perspective. The survey found that the pay for jobs within the category of Computer Operator, Mainframe for workers with between one and four years' experience ran from $25,000 to $60,941. These same workers with 20 years or more of experience made between $34,622 and $62,820.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty level for 2011 is $22,350.

It's clearly not a job that will make you rich, especially if you're just starting out, but in a small household with two wage earners, it should be enough to hold up one share of the rent and keep food in the kitchen. And if the CA Technologies survey is right, it shouldn't be that hard to find work.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 10/03/2011 at 12:48 PM6 comments


Former Kaviza COO Heads Up VDI-in-a-box

Just in case you've been wondering about what's been going on with Kaviza since Citrix acquired the company on May 23 along with its VDI-in-a-box technology, I can tell you that the Kaviza name is gone, and the first Citrix-branded product based on Kaviza's technology is scheduled to be released by year-end.

In addition, VR blogger and former Kaviza COO Krishna Subramanian has been named VP of Marketing and Business Development for VDI-in-a-box, a position that will enable her to perform such tasks as distinguishing the differences between the missions of Kaviza-style vs. XenDesktop-style VDI in terms of how they relate to topics such as product messaging and licensing between the two desktop virtualization offerings.

At this point, strategy details are sparse, and Subramanian is confining her comments to the 30,000-foot level, which means she is talking about the different priorities of SMBs and enterprises -- e.g. SMBs have simpler requirements, and are looking for easy, affordable packaged solutions, while enterprises are more interested in flexibility and customization.

Her next how-to blog is scheduled to be posted online at VirtualizationReview.com within the next couple of weeks, so check it out for more insights on what she has in mind.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 09/29/2011 at 12:48 PM3 comments


SolarWinds Makes Virtualization Work

Beseiged as I am with the ongoing avalanche of press releases describing advanced cloud products, it was refreshing to do a briefing with SolarWinds, which is all about implementing that aging, commoditized, pick-and-shovel technology known as virtualization. The company is currently focusing on its new SolarWinds Virtualization Manager 4.0 product, the meat and potatoes of which consists of VMware-only tools for capacity management, VM sprawl control, performance monitoring, configuration management, and chargeback automation.

"A lot of people are still building out their virtualization," said John Reeve, senior director, product management with SolarWinds, and he could not be more correct, so SolarWinds, which was founded in 1999 and has some 93,000 customers, is guiding them through a three-step process designed to make them public- and private-cloud-ready. The sweet spot in this customer base is the group of midmarket and enterprise departments that is approximately 30 percent virtualized.

Reeve stressed that Virtualization Manager 4.0 is based on a unified approach to virtualization that integrates key components rather than seeking them out individually from siloed environments. The key component he keeps coming back to is capacity management. "Capacity management continues to be a very big issue," Reeves said, adding that it is so important, and so dynamic that it can no longer be budgeted for on an annual basis, since requirements are fluid and system purchases need to be planned for well in advance.

SolarWinds caters to capacity management concerns via its many dashboards that posit what-if scenarios that help users understand the problems they may face, and possible solutions they can implement. Other dashboard application include helping users understand how they need to configure their systems to optimize vSphere 5 licensing scenarios, and how they can get the most out of desktop virtualization infrastructures.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 09/23/2011 at 12:48 PM0 comments


Your Mother Wears Army Boots! Virtualization Vendors Wage War with Words

The interesting thing about all the sniping going back and forth between VMware and Microsoft is that it's not really changing anybody's minds about whose products they're going to buy. One of the reasons for that is that in these kind of tit-for-tat fights, you really can't believe either side, because they are going to position their products in an unrealistically favorable light while doing just the opposite with their competitor's wares. I mean, it's really amazing how brazen these two companies have been recently in their condemnations of each other. They'll say anything.

Another reason, and probably the biggest one, is that nobody in a position of responsibility wants to go back to their boss and say, "Hey boss, I was reading a diatribe by VMware or watching a totally distorted funny video from Microsoft, and it made me realize we gotta get rid of all this lousy, unreliable, expensive and complex crap from [Pick one] Microsoft/VMware like yesterday. It sucks, and only a fool would buy it in the first place!"

What it gets down to is that anybody with half a brain is going to ignore all this bloviating and go about performing their due diligence before they write out any checks to any vendor.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 09/20/2011 at 12:48 PM1 comments


vSphere Beats Hyper-V in Side-by-Side Test

Yesterday, I was called by a PR guy I know who works with VMware's PR agency. He was returning my call to him in which I suggested having VMware write a piece addressing a very unfavorable white paper about VMware's vSphere pricing that Microsoft was circulating around the time of VMworld. The PR guy told me that it was not VMware's policy to respond to the attacks Microsoft is frequently making.

Sort of a stay-above-the-fray type of attitude. It made sense to me because one, there are so many people saying nasty things about VMware all the time that the company would have to hire a dedicated damage-control team just to answer all the naysayers--that's the way it goes when you dominate a market--and two, VMware is keeping an eye of Microsoft, but Paul Maritz is not losing any sleep over his former employer.

My PR guy did, however, refer me to VMware's Virtual Reality blog, which he said is sometimes used as a forum for competitive jousting. When I went to it today, I found an August 26 posting from Eric Horschman headlined "It's no surprise that vSphere 5 holds up under the pressure, but what about Hyper-V?" Horschman basically tees up a white paper entitled, "VMware vSphere outperformed Microsoft Hyper-V R2 SP1 by 18.8%," in order to see how Microsoft's Dynamic Memory would hold up against vSphere in a side-by-side VM density test.

VMware hired Principled Technologies to do the side-by-side comparo of vSphere 5 and Hyper-V R2 SP1 throughput when running a SQL Server workload under high VM densities. Said Horschman, "They used the well-respected DVD Store Version 2 benchmark to measure total throughput delivered by a host running 24 VMs, and then 30 VMs. With 24 4GB VMs, the 96GB host was just reaching full memory commit, and 30 VMs pushed it to 25% memory overcommit--familiar territory for vSphere users."

In a nutshell, here's what Principled Technologies reported: "We tested two hypervisors--VMware vSphere 5, and Microsoft Hyper-V, part of Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1--to compare their performance and ability to manage resources at high levels of utilization. When running 30 virtual machines each, VMware vSphere 5 outperformed Microsoft Hyper-V SP1 by 18.9%. VMware vSphere 5 also allocated server resources among individual VMs more fairly than Microsoft Hyper-V R2 SP1 (39.2 percent less variation), resulting in more consistent performance across all virtual machines. Finally, VMware vSphere 5 did a better job of scaling from 24 to 30 VMs with our workload: Overall server performance increased by 11.2 percent with VMware vSphere 5, whereas performance decreased 3.3 percent with Microsoft Hyper-V R2 SP1."

There's a lot more good information in this report, which you can download from the bottom of Horschman's blog. And, oh by the way, the next blog down is entitled "Setting Microsoft Straight on the VMware Service Provider Program (VSPP).

So much for staying above the fray.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 09/15/2011 at 12:48 PM6 comments


vSphere 5.0 White Paper Gives Performance Tips

We're a week removed from VMworld 2011, yet the momentum behind vSphere 5.0 continues to grow. The latest manifestation is VMware's update of its 76-page white paper, "Performance Best Practices for VMware vSphere 5.0." VMware makes it clear that while this latest version (vSphere 4.1 was covered in last November's rendition) was created to provide tips for many performance-related issues, "It is not intended as a comprehensive guide for planning and configuring your deployments."

The target audience for the white paper is system admins who are planning vSphere 5.0 rollouts and looking to optimize performance. Here's a quick rundown of what to expect:

Chapter 1, "Hardware for Use with VMware vSphere," on page 9, provides guidance on selecting hardware for use with vSphere.

Chapter 2, "ESXi and Virtual Machines," on page 17, provides guidance regarding VMware ESXi software and the virtual machines that run in it.

Chapter 3, "Guest Operating Systems," on page 37, provides guidance regarding the guest operating systems running in vSphere virtual machines.

Chapter 4, "Virtual Infrastructure Management," on page 45, provides guidance regarding infrastructure management best practices.

For more helpful info on vSphere 5.0, checkout out our new vSphere 5.0 page.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 09/13/2011 at 12:48 PM6 comments


Save Tens of Millions the Cisco Way

Cisco has a bright new idea it modestly claims can save IT organizations up to tens of millions of dollars. So far, so good.

This new idea is actually a new corporate datacenter located down south in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, with what Cisco calls a "dual nature," meaning its primary purpose is application development, but it can turn on a dime and be transformed into a DR site for one or more of the company's global data centers. Now, onto the kicker.

This new dual-purpose facility may be unique, but it does not have to be exclusively unique to Cisco, because it can be replicated by "any IT organization," resulting in the mega-million-dollar savings.

Cisco says companies with mission-critical apps and data, which suggests enterprises of all sizes, typically maintain a separate datacenter for DR, which implies one of three tactics: build a separate datacenter (costing mega millions, which almost nobody wants to do these downsizing days), co-locate one (still an expensive hassle) or bring in a third-party to handle DR, which makes a lot of IT shops very nervous.

Cisco proposes the following path: Start out with its Unified Computing System (UCS) and Service Profiles. Service Profiles are the fundamental mechanisms by which the UCS models the necessary abstractions of server, storage, and networking. Add to that a heaping helping of its Nexus switches along with Cisco-developed practices and policies, and the result is a datacenter with a day-in, day-out focus on application development, plus a DR site based on "virtual datacenters" that are created within the physical datacenter. What could be easier?

The grand opening takes place next Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 09/08/2011 at 12:48 PM1 comments


Cloud Security Control Freaks: HyTrust and CA

HyTrust and CA weren't looking to form a tryst, but their customers insisted upon it. Seems customers on both sides were tired of obtaining and maintaining enterprise controls for their virtualized infrastructures separately from HyTrust and CA, so they told the two vendors to get their acts together.

Specifically, HyTrust Appliance resolve issues related to the enforcement of end-to-end security policies and compliance controls, while CA Access Control secures and governs privileged user access to critical systems. Put them together and the two companies claim the end result is a solution that "addresses control, security management and compliance in virtual and cloud environments from the infrastructure to the services and applications hosted in the private or public cloud."

This is the kind of integrated technologies that CIOs are looking for as they slowly develop virtual infrastructures that will be expected to reach beyond virtualized data centers/private clouds to hybrid and public clouds. Toward that goal, VMware is offering Horizon App Manager, a single sign-on service for SaaS apps such as Google Apps and Salesforce.com.

According to HyTrust founder and president, Eric Chiu, these are heady times for his company, which has tripled its revenues and closed more new business in the first two quarters of 2011 than it did during the entirety of 2010. Chiu also says that has a 100 percent customer renewal rate and 60 percent of its new customers purchase more HyTrust products within their first year.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 09/06/2011 at 12:48 PM5 comments


VMware's Balkansky Talks About Customers

Accompanied by his PR aide, VMWare VP Bogomil Balkansky quietly enters the interview room and slips easily into his seat at the end of the table. With his close-cropped hair, dark blue suit and natty tie, VMware's Vice President of Product Marketing sits briefly in silence as he pulls out the Aug.-Sept. issue of VR and begins reading aloud from my VMware cover story profile.

"Strong, stoic, self-contained, the company is like China, ignoring the critics, picking its spots and always advancing," he reads from the beginning of my piece. And then, "That is one of the best descriptions of VMware that I have ever seen."

A good omen for our conversation to come.

After a minimum of small talk, we launch into the interview, during which Balkansky speaks at length about VMware's relationships with its customers, and how the company seeks to satisfy all 250,000 of them. In response to a question about how VMware caters to its most sophisticated customers as well as those who have not yet taken serious strides toward the cloud, he responds, "There is also a third group, the people who are taking Virtualization 101. We had 600 people at that session this morning."

Which provides him with a convenient segue into a discussion of how the broad horizontal scope of vSphere 5 allows it to amply serve a spectrum of customers, from virtualization newbies to private cloud practitioners. Which leads into another discussion of how to design and deliver products to market for such a diverse group. As Balkansky puts it, communicating with the company's most advanced customers in this regard is easy, because they are the ones driving the communication. "They have loud voices and they communicate with us," he says. "It is easy for us to listen to them."

SMB customers present a different challenge, because they do not have the leverage of their free-spending counterparts, and it's harder to keep in touch with them. In addition, these smaller companies move quickly, because they are not burdened by barriers such as excessive legacy applications, unwieldy change control requirements and outdated architectures. "They move from zero to 100% virtualization in a matter of a few months," Balkansky notes, adding that they also pay top dollar for their VMware products.

What they don't pay for is VMware Go, a free, Web-based service that makes it easy for new users to virtualize apps by automating the installation and configuration of ESXi, which is now the standard for vSphere 5 environments.

Another way VMware stays in touch with large and small customers alike is via its customer councils, which are designed to solicit opinions on upcoming products form high-end and low-end customers alike.

Balkansky admits that one area where VMware has not done its best is in helping its 25,000 partners go to market with their VMware solutions. As he puts it, "We're making changes to the big aircraft as we are flying." More specifically, the company is offering partners what amounts to pre-packaged plans that help them move to the market more quickly.

vCloud Director is a product with a lot of promise for VMware's cloud-bound customers because it enables them to build secure, private clouds. It is also a good example of the sophisticated technology that high-end users need to master if they are to complete their journeys to the cloud as envisoned by VMware. "They need to achieve a degree of virtualization maturity that enables them to implement advanced technologies," Balkansky notes. "We do challenge our customers--we challenge their ability to digest innovation, but if you want a challenge, this is the right kind to have."

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 09/01/2011 at 12:48 PM2 comments


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