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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 PM