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5 big things to watch for at VMworld

Brandon Butler | Aug. 23, 2013
The cloud, virtual networking and storage, OpenStack and mobile computing are all expected to be hot topics at VMworld this year.

For about the last decade VMware has been one of the pre-eminent companies ushering in a new era of computing related to server virtualization. Now, the company is hoping to extend the shift beyond just server virtualization to include the cloud, plus network and storage virtualization. The vision is encapsulated in what VMware executives call its Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) strategy, which will be on full display at the company's annual VMworld conference next week in San Francisco.

But the road to SDDC could be rocky. Enterprises remain skeptical of fully embracing the cloud. Network virtualization is unproven. The benefits of storage virtualization have not been fully articulated. Meanwhile, VMware is facing competitive pressures from Microsoft in the area it has dominated on the hypervisor front. Amazon is, by far, the market-leader in the cloud, and partner Cisco is controls many enterprise networks. Not to mention VMware has a CEO who is just finishing up one year on the job, and its CTO and chief marketing exec have left the company within the last year.

For all these reasons and more, VMware's annual show in San Francisco will be an important one. Here are five things to watch for:

The cloud
VMware is set to launch its vCloud Hybrid Cloud Service soon could VMworld be the place? VMware executives have been talking a lot about the offering, but there are questions that still need to be answered, such as where will the offering be hosted in VMware data centers, or in those from partners?

VMware says the biggest advantage to the offering is that it gives customers a common management platform across their on-premises VMware deployments and this new hybrid cloud. But other cloud providers can make that same argument (for example, Microsoft with the combination of Windows Systems Center and Azure, and Rackspace with OpenStack. Even Amazon has partners like Eucalyptus that customers can build private clouds with).

How will VMware position this new offering in the market and what will it mean for its partner customers?

Software-defined networking
One year ago VMware bought Nicira for $1.26 billion, but what's really happened since then? VMware has integrated some of the Nicira technology into its networking and security product offerings, but adoption is still very early on, and being led by service providers. Is network virtualization for regular enterprises? What advancements will VMware roll out to its virtual networking strategy that will convince enterprises to take a serious look at this technology now, and not in a couple of years?

Can VMware get customers excited about storage virtualization and hypervisors?
Virtual networking is undoubtedly going to get a lot of air time at VMworld, but compute and storage virtualization could be equally important aspects of VMware's SDDC strategy. On the compute virtualization part, CEO Pat Gelsinger acknowledged in an exclusive interview with Network World that it's the most mature of the virtualization platforms, but it is also perhaps the area facing the most competition from Microsoft with its Hyper-V hypervisor. How can VMware ensure ESX does not fall into the abyss of commoditization? As for virtualized storage, this is not new technology, but have any vendors really made the case about how important it is for enterprises? Will VMware try to do that at the show?


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