VMworld 2017 Day One: An Analysis of Announcements

SaaS, subscriptions and more clouds dominate the first day.

It's that time of year again: VMworld 2017 has arrived, and VMware has hot newness to announce. This year's announcements focus on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, cloudy capabilities and a renewed push by VMware toward a subscription licensing model.

The headline announcements are a group of six new cloud services, VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) 4.0, VMware vSphere Scale-Out Edition and the new VMware HCI Acceleration Kit.

New SaaS Services
VMware isn't happy with organizations that bought vSphere and then didn't upgrade. There are organizations out there still using vSphere 4.1. They didn't pay to upgrade to 5.x, nor did they pay to upgrade to 6.x. This makes the bean-counters sad.

VMware is also not particularly amused by the part where administrators, bloggers and journalists don't take a shine to various design decisions (such as new interfaces), and give VMware grief until things are changed. It has stumbled upon a solution to both problems: make its new solutions subscription-based SaaS offerings!

VMware, of course, claims that the move to subscription-based services is "driven by customer demand." What percentage of customers of customers are "demanding" this is "mumble mumble customer demand mumble;" but rest assured, subscription services are fantastic.

The announced subscription services are as follows:

  • Discovery: does what it says on the tin. Discovers what VMs you have running and lets you organize workloads into logical groupings, regardless of the datacenter of cloud they're running on.

  • Cost Insight: also does what it says on the tin. Public cloud cost calculator.

  • Wavefront: monitoring and analytics. Wavefront wants to be SolarWinds for SaaS apps when it grows up. Aimed at companies that are developing their "cloud-native" apps. Devs pipe info into Wavefront and admins get pretty charts.

  • Network Insight: monitoring and analytics for NSX. The press release calls it "VMware Network Insight." The slide deck calls it vRealize Network Insight (vRNI, pronounced "Vernie"). We are as yet unsure if this difference in nomenclature represents an attempted PR coup by the small but stubborn faction within VMware that objects to all the "Weekend at Vernie's" jokes. Investigation continues. Oh, and it's now version 3.5.

  • NSX Cloud: NSX, but in the cloud. Many buzzwords were slain to tell you that VMware wants the network you use to allow your workloads to talk to one another to be a subscription service.

  • AppDefense: VMware birthed a new application security business unit. Mazel tov. We'll dig into this in a separate piece.

VMware on AWS Is A Go
VMware on AWS has formally launched. You can now spin up Cloud Foundation on AWS, letting you run and manage VMware VMs in the public cloud as easily as you would on-premises. Currently, you can only buy by the hour. One-year and three-year subscriptions are planned for the future.

Cloud Foundation consists of vCenter Server, VSAN and NSX. You can find service providers other than AWS running Cloud Foundation, and you can run it in your own datacenter. This provides a true hybrid cloud solution for administrators: they can move workloads back and forth between their on-premises infrastructure, a public cloud provider and a hosted service provider.

Last year, administrators were wowed by demonstrations of cross-continent vMotion. This year, they can do it themselves, but to and from their datacenter to the cloud.

Bigger, Badder vSphere
vSphere now comes in giganamous. If you measure your computing in acres and don't want to use open source hypervisors to make it all go, then it's time to give VMware a ring. vSphere Scale-Out Edition is vSphere, but for deployments large enough to consider themselves high-performance computing.

vSphere Scale-Out Edition doesn't come with all the bells and whistles that its smaller cousins offers. Supported features: the ESXi hypervisor, vMotion, Storage vMotion, Storage APIs, Distributed Switch, I/O Controls and SR-IOV, as well as Host Profiles and Auto Deploy. So, all the really important stuff then.

If you've suddenly developed a need to operate at a scale that classic vSphere doesn't operate at, but don't want to retrain all your admins for a new hypervisor, this is the solution for you.

VMware Integrated OpenStack
VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) 4.0 has been launched. Based on the 15th version of OpenStack (Ocata), it comes with a host of new features and will ship in two editions: Datacenter and Datacenter with the add-on for vRealize Suite.

VIO 4.0 offers support for containers, vRealize Automation Integration, multi-vCenter support, Live VM resizing and a Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) offering. There is nothing negative to say about VIO. VIO is good. Long may it continue.

VMware HCI Acceleration Kit
The VMware HCI Acceleration Kit represents VMware finally relenting in the face of years of demand by small businesses for VSAN licensing that isn't punitive, insulting or outright insane. The Kit offers 3 vSphere Standard and 3 VSAN standard single-socket licences in a bundle.

The stated goal is to be able to offer a three-node hyperconverged solution for approximately $25,000. As a small business admin, and someone who has been screaming at VMware to do this since VSAN first came out, I can only say the following, with maximum possible emphasis: it's about [expletive deleted] time.

It remains to be seen if this Kit will be accepted by the market or if, as I personally suspect, VMware has waited too long. The HCI market is full of competitors who have proven track records of caring about small businesses. This may well be viewed by them as too little, too late.

A Good Day
Overall, a good showing by VMware. VMware is trying to position itself as the cross-cloud management solution of the sane administrator, and they just might pull that off. While there is clearly some work yet to be done to get there, all the basic pieces are in place.

The goal for VMware is to be able to treat clouds like it used to tread individual servers. When VMware first built its empire, it lashed together individual servers to allow us to move workloads between different physical pieces of hardware. It provided vMotion and high availability. It provided management tools that eventually commoditized the underlying hardware and changed the entire industry.

By VMworld 2018, we fully expect VMware to be able to reasonably be able to say that it has been able to commoditize cloud vendors in the same way. You will be able to move your workloads between clouds. vMotion and high availability will most likely both work across clouds. Containers and desired state configuration tools will be first-class citizens along side traditional full-fat VMs.

In essence, regardless of whether you rent your infrastructure from a public cloud provider, a service provider or have purchased hardware of your own, VMware will manage it. Whether or not VMware prices everything at levels anyone can actually afford remains to be seen.

Management tools plus monitoring apps plus security tools plus VSAN plus NSX all starts to add up quickly. Add in the cost of the infrastructure underneath, and the cost to run an individual workload doesn't seem to be going down any in this newfangled cloud era. The next 12 months are going to be very interesting in the hybrid cloud space, and VMworld 2018 will be one to watch.

About the Author

Trevor Pott is a full-time nerd from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He splits his time between systems administration, technology writing, and consulting. As a consultant he helps Silicon Valley startups better understand systems administrators and how to sell to them.

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