VMworld 2008 Recap: Paul Maritz Q&A, Perplexed Partners, and Microsoft Crashes the Party

The curtain has fallen on VMworld 2008, and by most accounts the event was a success. According to VMware, more people attended VMWorld 2008 than any other VMworld, and there were more exhibitors on the expo floor than ever before. VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz (see our Q&A with Maritz here) sketched out his vision for the future of the company during his keynote, a speech book-ended by a technical discussion of upcoming VMware products by VMware CTO Dr. Stephen Herrod. VMware's new product roadmap-—articulated by the unveiling of VDC-OS and other product announcements-—make it clear that VMware doesn't intend to stand still long enough for Microsoft's virtualization efforts to catch up.

While many welcomed VMware's product news, the mood from VMware partners exhibiting at the show was mixed. Many vendors who spoke with Windows IT Pro welcomed the product roadmap, but felt blindsided by VMware's new product strategy. This left many with the unenviable position of trying to explain the validity of their product in the face of new VMware products that may compete directly with third-party offerings.

David M. Lynch, VP of Marketing for Embotics, a company that develops products that help IT pros manage their virtual infrastructures, said that VMware's VDC-OS roadmap announcement came as a complete surprise. "We weren't given a heads up on the news…a courtesy call would have been nice," says Lynch. That viewpoint was shared by several other vendors who felt ill-prepared to field questions from existing (and potential) customers at the show about how their own products would fit within VMware's new product roadmap. According to Lynch, a more problematic issue for VMware is that Microsoft has been much easier to work with as a partner. "Microsoft has provided us a pretty clear vision of where they're building products, where we can cooperate, and where we could add value \[to their product proposition\]," says Lynch. "We've asked for marketing information from Microsoft, and they've eventually provided it. It's been comparatively more difficult to get that same level of cooperation from VMware."

Other vendors related a more positive experience with VMware's partner initiatives, particularly those that were included in some of VMware's VMworld product announcements. A representative from network storage provider FalconStor indicated that their dealings with VMware before the show were positive. FalconStor was included in a VMware news release about the VMware Ready partner program for the new VDC-OS initiative.

Regardless of the divergent opinions among vendors about the effectiveness of VMware's partner outreach, most seemed in agreement that the addition of Paul Maritz to the executive team was a good move on VMware's part, and that the new VMware product roadmap strategy accomplished a few things in VMware's favor: It gives large customers the information they need to support VMware for the long-term, and also helps generate doubt among customers who may be enticed by Microsoft's efforts to get large customers to dump VMware and migrate to Hyper-V. "It's a great defensive position, and it helps VMware freeze the market from moving too quickly to Microsoft," says Lynch. "That said, VMware's new strategy will only work as long as they can deliver \[the products they've promised\]."

VMworld 2008: Q&A with VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz

While attending VMworld 2008 last week, Windows IT Pro editors Jeff James and Michael Otey had the opportunity to sit down with VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz to ask him a few questions about his arrival at VMware, his long-term strategy for the company, and what he intends to do to keep Microsoft—where he worked for many years—from catching up to VMware in the virtualization market.

Read the full Paul Maritz interview by clicking here.

Jeff James: Soon after you joined VMware, ESXi was released as a free download. How much of an influence did you have on that decision?

Paul Maritz: I think that was obviously a decision that had to be teed up; I probably just helped push it over the edge.

Michael Otey: The vision of the future that you outlined in your keynote was pretty interesting—big changes, a lot of it key on virtualization. But from what we've seen so far with virtualization, the uptake isn't completely pervasive. How do you see companies getting from where they’re at now, where they’re just beginning to adopt virtualization, into the kind of vision that you outlined yesterday?

Paul Maritz: I was deliberately trying in the keynote yesterday to lay out a framework, to say this is where we’re going to be in the next 3-5 years. There’s a lot of work to be done. That said, we see quite a large spectrum in terms of adoption of virtualization. We see customers that are being very aggressive, probably targeting to be essentially completely virtualized by the end of ’09, huge companies who have basically said they’ll have their entire infrastructure virtualized, unless there’s some incredibly strong reason not to.

On the other hand, there are people as you say who are just kind of testing the waters. What we’re going to need to do is take the learning out of those discussions, and make sure that we and our partners absolve that learning and make it available for those who want to start down that journey. I want to stress that both us and our partners are continuing to grow our professional services organization. One of the particular products that they are starting to offer is to come and do a virtualization assessment for a company, look at the environment and to point out where they should start, how they should go about it, and provide a framework that they can use to get a plan to do that. We also want to work with our professional services partners, because the opportunity is bigger than we can scale our professional services organization. One of the things we need to do is work with other professional services organizations, to share the experience and knowledge to do this; hopefully that will build upon itself.

This speaks to a general maturation the company needs to go through. For the first time in VMware, we have 70 CIOs across the block spending 2 days with us, and they’re saying “you’re going to have to teach this to us, whether you like it or not. You have to articulate a long-term roadmap for us, because I need to make decisions about my datacenter capacity that are going to come back to me in three years time, based on what I think you can do. Tell us whether you’re really going to do it or not.” We have to really learn to put a different set of criteria and metrics that we have to take into account as we make decisions moving forward.

Michael Otey: Your virtualization assessment program sounds like a great idea, especially for small and medium-sized businesses that don’t really know much about virtualization.

Paul Maritz: Part of that is also professional services, which is great for those guys, the PC community, so that small business can get ready access to someone in close geographic environment who is certified \[with VMware virtualization products\] and knows what he’s talking about.

Read the full Paul Maritz interview by clicking here.

VMworld 2008: An IT Pro's Perspective

One of the best things about attending a trade show like VMworld is the opportunity it provides to talk to real IT professionals that are using virtualization to impact their own IT environments. While at VMworld 2008 I had the good fortune to have lunch one afternoon with Bryan Purtell, a Systems Administrator for the Comptroller's Office in New York. Bryan agreed to have a follow-up phone conversation after the show, and agreed to share some of his thoughts on the event.

VMworld 2008 was the first VMworld that Purtell has attended, and he was impressed by what he saw. "Value-wise this is the best conference I've ever attended. I've been to Interop, and attended a Microsoft event focused on Vista/Longhorn a few years ago. I really enjoyed the opportunity to network and learn from people that are doing the same type of work I am, and have some of the same pain points."

Purtell said he was able to get most of his technical questions answered at the show, ranging from advice on the proper way to configure network cards and host bus adapters (which he learned at a hands-on lab about VI3 performance and troubleshooting) to more tips and tricks on how to optimize the operation of VI3 with an advanced tuning class. Purtell has been using VMware products since 2004, started with ESX 2.0, and has upgrade to every major new release. He's now running VI3 and ESX Server 3.5, and is looking forward to hearing more about the VMware's VDC-OS product strategy as more details become available.

"I was very interested in the vCenter discussion," Purtell said. "If VirtualCenter does become available as a stand-alone Linux appliance, that will be great for us. We can get rid of VirtualCenter running on top of a Windows machine…that will give us just the functionality we want, and remove the need to patch as often as we have to." Purtell also expressed interest in hearing more about VMware's other new vCenter products, including Orchestrator, Chargeback, and CapacityIQ.

Purtell mentions that he has a self-described "love-hate relationship" with Microsoft, and isn't eager to move off of a VMware platform to a Microsoft one. "Microsoft does make very good server and client products, and they always seem to work well together," says Purtell. "I know that Microsoft shares all of their APIs internally with other development teams, but I don't think they're always as good about providing that information to third-party vendors."

When it comes to Hyper-V, Purtell says that the lack of a comparable live migration feature—which VMware offers in Vmotion—makes Hyper-V a non-starter. "At this point we're about 80% virtualized with VMware, and it works well—we can quickly migrate from one host to another, it simplifies disaster recovery, and the host can be restarted. I like the idea of putting my eggs in one basket, but only if all those eggs can come back up. If Microsoft can demonstrate that they can do it as good or better—without redoing our entire architecture—that would be a different story." Purtell adds that even if the switch was free, things like support calls, training, and other ancillary costs can make a free or low-cost approach not such a good deal.

"I've been extremely satisfied with VMware's technical support," says Purtell. "They're really good at making follow up calls, and the support has been phenomenal. The training courses \[through VMware\] have been ok…I went to New York City for a week for a VMware class on how to deploy, secure, and analyze their products that was good."

Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of the show for Purtell was news of VMware's cloud computing efforts, described in their vCloud initiative. "If we can get to a point where we don't care if something is saved on server X or server Y, where we don't have to know what applications are available, or run logon scripts, or map to application services, or go to an O: drive to open this, or to the P: drive to open that, that would be great. If VMware can pull this off—and make it all work—this could help them pull away. Microsoft products have always been good, but they haven't been so good with services. If VMware can deliver on these products, and wrap them around good services, they're going to leave Microsoft in the dust."

VMworld 2008: Microsoft Spoils the Party

Recent TV ads featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates may have helped present a more appealing, humorous side of the software giant to the general computing public, but some guerilla marketing efforts at VMworld 2008 reveal that Microsoft hasn't lost the obsessively competitive (and arguably ham-fisted) side of its corporate personality.

While VMware President and CEO (and former Microsoft exec) Paul Maritz was busy preparing for his keynote, Microsoft surrogates in faux-Renaissance garb were--according to a post by Drue Reeves over at the Burton Group--passing out postcards (and affixed playing chips to the Venetian) that shouted "VMware costs way too much" and directed attendees to visit a companion website (www.vmwarecostswaytoomuch.com) that touted Hyper-V as a solution that offers "lower TCO, fast time to value, a reduction in system complexity, and a strong partner ecosystem." Lampooning a competitor during the executive keynote at their own trade show is a tacky marketing move at best. Now that Microsoft has lowered the bar, maybe VMware can return the favor?

Here's an idea: Given that live migration for Hyper-V won't be available until 2009 (or possibly 2010), maybe VMware could dress up a few dozen staffers in bird costumes, have them play dead, and clog up the aisles during the Microsoft executive keynote at the next TechEd? Microsoft may not have live migration by then, but at least they could have a dead one.

Some advice for Microsoft: The problem with throwing rotten tomatoes is that they sometimes get sent back in your direction.

Related Reading:

The Windows IT Pro VMworld 2008 Blog

The show may be over, but the posts live on. Check out the running commentary from Windows IT Pro editor who attended VMworld in our VMworld 2008 blog.

Did you Attend VMworld 2008? Tell Us What You Think!

Did you attend VMworld 2008 as an attendee, speaker, or exhibitor? We’d like to hear about your experiences, so please send your thoughts about VMworld 2008 to Jeff James. Be sure to put “VMworld 2008 Feedback” in the email subject line so we can spot your feedback quickly.

Virtualization Congress Comes to London

Virtualization.info is sponsoring the first independent Virtualization Congress at the ExCel Conference Centre in London October 14-16. Dozens of vendors and exhibitors will be displaying their wares at the event, and a full schedule of speakers and technical presenters will provide attendees with information about how to leverage their virtualization investments. Seamus Quinn, editor of the Windows IT Pro EMEA newsletter, has written an article about the event here.

In the next issue of Virtualization UPDATE (10/08/08)

  • Commentary: VDC-OS Revealed
  • New virtualization product announcements from VMworld 2008
  • …and more virtualization commentary, news, tips, and tricks
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