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VMworld 2013: Will VMware Regain its Voice?

  Think of one of your favorite bands. Odds are that when they first hit the scene they were brash, unapologetic, and reached stardom at an unthinkable pace. Then what happened? If they’re like some of my favorite bands, they got rich, “matured,” and lost touch with what got them to reach their early success. They then spent their remaining days playing their early hits to a devoted audience. Or they break up. Remind you of VMware, or other disruptive technology vendors? I ask because here we are a week before VMworld, and I’m wondering if the predictable VMware will show up – you know the one that plays the hits and caters to its base – or will we see something brasher? My money is on the older, richer, more conservative VMware. Wearing my customer hat, I’d love to be wrong. Ten years ago VMware didn’t care who it offended. Along the way server hardware vendors had no choice but to partner with them even though VMware was screaming from the rooftops “With us, you’ll need less servers!” Now think about VMware’s 2013 push around the software-defined data center (SDDC). You know what word isn’t in SDDC? Hardware. If VMware wants to really get the SDDC to take off, it needs to rediscover its inner rebellious teenager – the one that got it to where it is in the first place. Consider successful public cloud service providers such as AWS. Amazon’s stack places a premium on software and sees hardware as a commodity. Yet VMware is pushing a software-defined data center mostly on top of enterprise-grade hardware from its partners. How do you get to be cost competitive with AWS when you place a premium in the entire stack while Amazon only places a premium in software? You don’t. And if VMware and its partners believe it’s possible, they’re fooling themselves. Take a look at the VMworld 2013 Global Diamond Partners. They have one thing in common (Hint: It starts with “hard” and ends with “ware”). So in the end, the graduation party for the SDDC is primarily sponsored by hardware vendors. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you can get rid of the enterprise hardware in your data centers – certainly not yet. But there is increasingly less of a need to build a virtual and physical infrastructure around the greatest common denominator – the tier 1 workload. That’s great for the vendors but not so great for your bottom line. Down the road I expect several of our clients to look at alternative lower cost technologies for less critical workloads. VMware needs to look at offerings with lower price points...

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VMware Will be a Public Cloud IaaS Provider

Let’s face it. Sometimes being an “enabler,” is admirable. However, if you’ve seen an episode of Intervention lately, being an enabler is not always a good thing. VMware’s IaaS strategy was to enable its partners to offer vCloud services and give it’s customers near unlimited (>9,500 partners) choice of cloud providers. There was a big issue with this strategy – it assumed that VMware’s cloud partners would be A-OK with allowing customers to come and go. At the end of the day, that didn’t meet VMware’s provider partners business model. No one wants to race to the bottom of a commodity market and providers rightfully should be concerned with their ability to differentiate with competitors and show value while sharing a common VMware stack. Today’s news shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Nearly two years ago I blogged that this day would eventually come. The market would force VMware to be a provider, and it has. Forget about the talk of “open.” At the end of the day, every vendor and provider is in the business of doing whatever possible to lock customers in and make it tough for them to leave. Providers have always wanted high degrees of extensibility so that they can add value to a cloud offering and in the end offer enough customized services to make it tough for customers to leave. If we look at today’s IaaS announcement, VMware is trying to have greater control of the “choice” it’s customers get. Choice will mean a VMware-hosted offering that in theory will make it easy for customers to move VMware-based workloads in and out of the pubic cloud. The aim is an “inside-out” approach where workloads between a private data center and a public cloud operate seamlessly. The trick here, however, is how important mobility and choice will be to customers. Workloads that go straight to cloud and have few traditional enterprise management needs can go to any cloud. Front end web servers are a great example – static data, built to horizontally scale, and no backup requirements. VMware’s challenge going forward will be to differentiate. If VMware is the “enterprise alternative” to Amazon, it better launch it’s IaaS solution with enterprise features (AWS isn’t perfect but it has tons of features that large enterprises are now taking for granted). Redundant data centers, enterprise storage, networking, backup, and security are a must. In addition, it must offer serious tools for developers; the time for VMware to show the results of its investment in Puppet Labs should be when the public IaaS offering launches. Otherwise, Amazon and other providers will continue to win on features and the ease of experience that developers have...

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The 90s Called: They Want Their Procurement Team Back

Today I talked to a client about their private cloud architecture and pending investments. The talk hit on a lot of areas, ranging from software licensing, to vendor support, to orchestration, and finally to standardization. When we got to the topic of standardization and procurement, they couldn’t contain themselves. One member of the organization said: We can’t even say we’re a Microsoft Exchange shop. As far as procurement is concerned, we can’t even have a standard for email. If that sounds odd to you, then consider your investments for private cloud. Providers achieve tremendous economies of scale through high degrees of standardization, yet that approach is nearly impossible for many enterprises. The reason for many are the folks in the procurement group whose job it is to save the company on capex costs. These folks have long prided themselves on getting a 15% discount in selecting one vendor product over another. Once the discounted solution is procured, then it’s the job of IT Ops to run it. If that decision results in a 30% premium on opex, then so be it. At that point the procurement group is already focused on the next purchase. It’s a story I hear a lot and in my opinion is an extremely shortsighted approach. Until procurement is retooled to place the emphasis on TCO instead of capex, I will continue to work with clients on stringing together a hodgepodge of point solutions at a ridiculously high cost. Granted, not every vertical faces this issue to the same degree, but it is especially painful in the public sector. The finger often gets pointed at IT Ops for being too costly, but the real source is ironically a group that prides themselves on saving money – the procurement group. Procurement is trying to save money in the best interest of the business, but an approach purely focused on capex often hurts the business. Cloud computing is forcing one of the greatest collective IT modernization efforts in our history. It’s time that procurement processes join us in the 21st century as well. Update: This morning (February 5th) I discussed this particular issue with a client. In their case, standardization was a mandate set at the VP level and impacts all business units. The mandate changed the role of procurement to one of standardization enforcement with the expectation of getting better volume discounts by working with fewer vendors. In addition, he mentioned the other added benefits around opex costs. The procurement team no longer looks for the best deal in terms of upfront cost. They look to check to see if a product already exists within the approved vendor set and requires the business...

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Heterogeneous Virtualization Trends at Gartner Data Center

Heterogeneous virtualization has been a hot topic among clients and last week at the Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas I presented a session on the subject. During the session, I polled the audience on their heterogeneous virtualization plans. Fifty participants responded to each polling question. The first question I asked was about the current hypervisors that were deployed (note that the values are the number of respondents and not a percentage).                 As you can see, most participants used VMware vSphere as expected, and there was a good mix of Hyper-V, XenServer, and some RHEV and Oracle VM. It’s one thing to have multiple hypervisors, but not everyone is using multiple hypervisors to run production server applications in their data centers. That’s why I asked attendees which hypervisors they were using to run production server applications.                   Notice that the drop was pretty significant. In the first poll, 44 non-VMware hypervisors were used. In the second poll, that number dropped to 25. The drop is consistent with an important but often unreported multi-hypervisor trend – while most organizations are using multiple hypervisors, most are not using multiple hypervisors for their production server applications (Oracle VM is a common exception). The second or third hypervisors deployed within an organization are often used to support branch office or departmental deployments. The fact that the additional hypervisors are being used is important, but so is understanding the use cases. With that in mind, I also asked attendees about their plans for a single hypervisor.                   Most (57%) planned to use a single hypervisor for production server workloads that required DR, with DR simplicity being the primary driver behind that decision. Clients frequently tell me that they fear that multiple hypervisors will recreate some of the same DR challenges that they initially solved with server virtualization. In addition, the OPEX concerns are real. Clients doing heterogeneous virtualization today almost always have a separate management silo for each hypervisor. When political or geographical issues preserve IT silos, the per-hypervisor silos might not be too big of a deal. However, organizations looking to be more centralized and efficient should aim for higher degrees of standardization. Does this data mean that VMware wins? Not necessarily. I’ve had many calls with clients that are considering to switching to Hyper-V as their standard virtualization offering. That switch will take place over a 3-5 year period, with the end goal of having a homogeneous virtualization layer. If VMware is smart, it will focus on the OPEX and DR benefits...

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Desktop Virtualization Trends at Gartner Data Center

          At the Gartner Data Center conference in Las Vegas last week I asked several polling questions regarding desktop virtualization adoption plans and trends, and thought that they were worth sharing. Note that the poll was taken in my session on “Desktop Virtualization: Tales from the Trenches,” so the audience was already at least considering the technology. The first question I asked was regarding business drivers.                 As you can see above, the majority of respondents wanted to use the technology to reduce TCO, while giving users a “Follow-me desktop” was a close second. We have multiple clients that have been able to reduce TCO 10% or higher, so the expectations are legitimate. The next polling question looked at virtual desktop adoption goals.                 Note that 11-30% seemed to be the sweet spot, while other organizations had more aggressive targets, and some had less. We talk to many clients that are using virtual desktops for a variety of use cases, so the range of answers was expected. Some healthcare organizations see the technology reaching the majority of their doctors and clinicians. Other verticals are using virtual desktops for remote worker and remote office support. In fact, I spoke to several clients at the conference who were expanding to Eastern Europe and the Asia Pacific regions. They didn’t want to hire any IT staff to manage the remote offices, so the virtual desktop was a sound investment for them. I often get asked about virtual desktop vendor preferences and the survey respondents pointed to a near even split between Citrix and VMware, along with growing interest in Microsoft.                 We still see Citrix having a slight edge among Gartner clients that we speak with each day; however, Citrix should take note of the poll response that several organizations see VMware as a capable alternative. Note that the poll sample was from 105 conference attendees. The last question that I had asked was about storage preferences. This question was a little more involved and about half of the poll participants responded to this one.                         Attendees could select multiple options, and while the enterprise storage array features were expected, the interest in the native hypervisor features such as IntelliCache and View Accelerator was a bit of a surprise. However, virtual desktops are capex-sensitive and when native platform technologies can be used, it’s a logical first option. Still, oftentimes specialized storage is closely evaluated by organizations looking to reduce their storage...

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