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VMworld Wrap-Up

The attendance stats coming out of the seventh annual VMworld conference, which wrapped up Thursday in San Francisco, are stunning: more than 17,000 conference goers attended more than 15,000 labs and consumed 102,000 sodas and 27,000 pastries (my contribution to this last one was more restrained this year, thanks for asking). And unseasonable temps in the high 90s!

But the numbers I began to wonder about after VMware unveiled its grand vision for a "new infrastructure" and "IT-as-a-Service" aren't as easy to pin down. (Get the details on these technologies from our sister pub, Virtualization Review. Excellent coverage of this year's conference by Bruce Hoard, Rick Vanover and others.)

Derrick Harris, senior curator in the Infrastructure group at industry analyst firm GigaOM Pro, actually posed the question on my mind in the title of a recently published strategy research paper: "VMware’s Cloudy Ambitions: Can It Repeat Hypervisor Success?

You'll probably know GigaOM as the biz blog network launched in 2006 by Om Malik. Launched last year, GigaOM Pro provides "real-time expert industry analysis on emerging technology markets." It's essentially a network of savvy IT industry watchers.

I talked with Harris a week before the show, and he described a VMware already embarking on an all-inclusive cloud-computing strategy.

"In the cloud, you have the infrastructure level, the platform level and the software level, and VMware is trying to play in all those areas," he said. "Its solution set covers nearly every layer of the cloud stack, and its server, storage and networking partners fill in the rest, so against any single vendor, VMware continues to be the hands-down favorite for market leader. Which is not to say won't find anyone in its rear-view mirror."

VMware execs took the stage during the conference to describe a new everything-in-the-cloud stack that features an infrastructure layer comprising vSphere, vCenter, vCloud Director and vShield. Above that: a new cloud application platform layer; above that, a new end-user-access-from-any-device-anywhere layer. VMware CEO Paul Maritz declared that the role of the operating system layer in this environment is changing. "The traditional OS won't disappear," he said, "but it's one component that needs to fit into this world."

The big news for developers here is the cloud application platform, called vFabric. Based on the Spring Java development framework, vFabric includes the Apache Tomcat-based app server tc Server, GemFire data management software, the Enterprise Ready Server web server, the newly acquired Hyperic app performance management solution, and the RabbitMQ messaging software.

"VMware wants a situation where the developer writes to a framework -- in this case, the Spring framework -- and the lower level stuff is handled by another group of people and is automated as much as possible," Harris said. "This should be great for developers who have been trying to write applications for a virtualized environment; it frees them from concerns about the operating system, or the database, or other pieces of the stack."

I also talked with Timothy Stephan, VMware's knowledgeable senior director of product marketing, at the show about the IT-as-a-service model VMware was touting.

"In the late 1800s, organizations had a Chief Electricity Officer, who was charged with making sure that the rate and sources of electricity were standardized," he said. "I definitely wouldn't go so far as to say that the CIO is that outdated, but you see how things evolve. This is a utility model we're talking about, and a growing number of our customers are thinking about computing in this way."

I checked in with GigaOM Pro's Harris via e-mail after the show to get his take on the announcements: "In terms of [VMware's] cloud computing strategy around vCloud and its vFabric platform solution, nothing much has changed," he said. "However, Maritz's focus on IT as a service did surprise me a bit, as did the related acquisitions of Integrien and TriCipher [security]. Expanding beyond applications and infrastructure by delivering additional IT processes as services shows that VMware gets the bigger picture. Of course, it also puts VMware in greater competition against management vendors, which could have some interesting implications."

Posted by John K. Waters on September 4, 2010