As disruptions to their job roles loom on the horizon, it’s essential for virtualization administrators to ensure that their skills remain modern, relevant and vital.
The virtualization admin role is changing — especially with the advent of containers, hybrid cloud, multi-cloud and multi-hypervisor environments — and admins need tools to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry. At last week’s Virtualization Technology User Group event in Foxborough, Mass., two experts doled out five principles that admins can use to steer their IT career growth.
IT career growth hinges on the first principle, the “law of intentionality,” according to presenters Chris Colotti, field CTO at Tintri, and Luigi Danakos, a vExpert and consultant at Blurt Media Group, in a session. They advised admins to identify gaps in their skills and address them head on. In earlier periods of their careers, IT workers may have learned new skills and technologies left and right — what Colotti deemed the “young and cheap stuff” — but as a career matures, those decisions need to become more strategic.
For many admins, this appraisal will reveal under-developed soft skills. Soft skill development is common advice for IT career growth, but it has become even more relevant for virtualization admins. As virtualization connects to more aspects of IT, such as storage and networking, the virtualization admin will need to replace siloed responsibilities with communication and collaboration across infrastructure components.
Second, admins must follow the “law of curiosity,” Colotti said. That means remaining inquisitive and staying open to new developments in the industry.
IT admins should also address their fears, and one way to do that is by building more self-confidence. With this “law of the mirror,” administrators use self-reflection to build themselves up.
“Embrace the positive version of you,” Danakos said.
Through optimism, admins can adapt to hardship and embrace new possibilities. This leads to perhaps the bluntest laws — the laws of trade-offs and pain, which refer to sacrifices or struggles that serve as catalysts for IT career growth. Colotti emphasized these points as he reflected on financial trouble, a cross-country move and a new step in his career.
“You learn through pain,” he said.
To achieve true IT career growth, virtualization admins cannot afford to exclusively improve their core skill set. They need to diligently identify gaps, commit to curiosity and follow through on a learning process that will require trade-offs, pain and strategy. With these principles in mind, virtualization admins can thrive in an industry in transition.
File this under: Never try to eat anything bigger than one’s head.
Four years after Michael Dell took his namesake company private in one of the largest leveraged buyouts (LBO) in U.S. business history, rumors are abuzz that the company will consider another IPO.
Dell going public could raise cash and reduce the mountain of debt the company took on to go private. The company’s purchase of EMC and virtualization market leader VMware in 2015 made the combined $67 billion company one of the largest IT suppliers in the world. It might have also contributed to its financial woes.
Dell took on a lot of debt, and it wasn’t clear at the time how it would all be resolved, said Jean Bozman, vice president with Hurwitz & Associates, consultants based in Needham, Mass.
“It did spin out its software division and some services units, but maybe it should have considered throwing more than that overboard,” she said. “It could have helped pay down the debt.”
The money raised by Dell going public would allow the company to swallow the rest of VMware, or at least that’s one option reportedly on the table. Presently Dell only holds a stake in VMware, reportedly worth some $50 billion, and has not exerted tight control over the virtualization giant, allowing it to pursue its own independent strategies.
“VMware was allowed to partner with the entire industry from a hardware perspective, and maybe this was part of the [financial] problem too,” Bozman said.
There may be no final decision for Dell going public – again — until the board of directors meets in the next few weeks.
At the beginning of 2016, we asked our panel of experts on the SearchServerVirtualization Advisory Board to gaze into their crystal balls and offer predictions for virtualization trends in 2016. These predictions came hot on the heels of Dell announcing its acquisition of EMC, so it’s no surprise that the potential ramifications of this merger occupied their thoughts, but our experts also forecast the rise of containers and hyper-converged technology, an uncertain road ahead for virtualization and more. Were our experts given the gift of sight and the ability to prophesy the future? Read on to find out.
The Dell-EMC merger shakes up the market
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: the Dell-EMC merger. Dell bought out storage giant EMC in October of 2015 to the tune of $67 million and with it acquired a stake in VMware. Dell and EMC CEOs claimed that the merger would result in the companies taking a unified leadership position in new technologies, and that EMC going private would allow the company to remain agile on the business side while keeping the peace with shareholders. For its part, VMware was slated to remain public. The Dell-EMC merger closed on September 7, 2016.
This news was still hot off the presses back in January 2016, so our experts were left with more questions than answers. Brian Kirsch of the Milwaukee Area Technical College, deliberated the acquisition’s effect on VMware, wondering whether the virtualization company would remain a disruptive force or stabilize and become an established market player. Maish Saidel-Keesing of Cisco Video Technologies Israel questioned how the merger would affect the virtualization market.
Fortunately, the insight and perspective of time have given us the answers to these questions. Initially, the merger appeared to be a dark cloud looming over VMware, coinciding with layoffs and plummeting stock shares. Despite the doom and gloom, the benefits of the merger for VMware have since become more apparent: VMware’s clientele will likely increase thanks to Dell’s sales team, and the merger has inspired the company to focus on new cloud and networking strategies with particular attention on NSX.
As for its effect on the virtualization market as a whole, the Dell-EMC merger has created some confusion in regards to redundant products, support systems and sales teams, which has understandably led to customer anxiety. Going forward, Dell will have to make some cuts or, at the very least, some upgrades, which may result in the company emphasizing its best products.
The container explosion
Our experts agreed almost unanimously that 2016 would be the year of the container, speculating that the capabilities of containerization would grow, that the number of container startups would increase exponentially and that container technology, such as Microsoft Nano Server, would make a splash. It would seem that our experts were right on the money with this prediction: According to a report from 451 Research, in a survey of 960 IT professionals polled on their adoption of containers, 32% said they were in the process of discovery and evaluation, 10% were running trials, 8% were focused on test and dev environments, 9% reported initial implementation in production applications and 5% reported broad implementation in production applications.
Why the commotion over containers? Containers are easy to deploy and can be more resource efficient than VMs. They’re also faster to provision, offer greater performance in terms of speed and are highly portable. And the container explosion of 2016 isn’t just a passing fad — it’s carried over into 2017 and is expected to continue, with another 451 Research survey reporting that the application container market will grow from $762 million in 2016 to $2.6 billion by 2020.
HCI takes its seat at the table
Another trend our experts forecast was the rise of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). It doesn’t take psychic ability to understand the appeal of HCI — it neatly packages the different elements of a traditional data center into a single appliance, and offers tighter integration.
Rob McShinsky of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center predicted that HCI would enter the mainstream in 2016 and that hyper-converged technologies would take their seat at the table as the base hardware platform for many medium- to large-sized organizations. This prediction proved particularly prescient, with IDC reporting hyper-convergence growth at 137.5% year-over-year during the second quarter of 2016. This veritable boom drew the interest of legacy and new vendors alike, with new HCI vendors leading the pack. The oversaturation of the market has led vendors to lower their prices significantly, which is good news for customers, but could spell trouble for vendors’ profits. As a result, the market has started to consolidate, as evidenced by the recent acquisition of SimpliVity by Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Our experts may not have proven themselves to be clairvoyant, but, for the most part, their predictions for 2016 rang true; we can only hope to be as perceptive looking to the future of server virtualization in 2017.
This was a big year for virtualization products, but that doesn’t mean all of them hit home with customers. There were some significant misses, with product limitations disappointing potential buyers before they’d even been released. That being said, those product deliveries that addressed key customer concerns and included improvements with real world applications really set the bar high for next year. Read on to see what our picks are for the virtualization product winners and losers of 2016.
With many highly publicized security breaches over just the last year, the importance of security cannot be overstated. As such, it’s no wonder VMware’s network virtualization product, NSX, comes out on top. Take its enhanced security features, including distributed firewall, edge firewall, data security, activity monitoring and flow monitoring, and add microsegmentation to the mix. That recipe alone would give NSX the win, but there have also been improvements to workflow automation. These features mean more portability and agility with reduced complexity and network operating costs.
Unfortunately for VMware, vSphere hasn’t had the same success as NSX in 2016. It’s certainly not breaking news that vSphere is losing market share, but the reason behind the shift is worth noting. With more and more organizations virtualizing their data centers and moving to the public cloud, the need for vSphere as an on-premises platform is dwindling. Recent licensing changes might also have a negative impact on adoption rates. Along those same lines, VMware dropped the ever-popular Enterprise edition from its offerings, so now if customers want Distributed Resource Scheduler, they have to shell out even more money for Enterprise Plus.
There’s been a lot of talk about Microsoft Windows Server 2016 over the last year, and with good reason. The recent release comes with improvements to Hyper-V, including the ability to hot add/remove vNIC and modify memory for running VMs, along with a new VM configuration file format, nested functionality, VM shielding, Linux Secure Boot and PowerShell Direct. Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V also comes with updated management protocol support as well as support for alternate credentials and earlier versions of Hyper-V. Some of these improvements are more behind the scenes, but the list goes on and on.
Though Windows Server 2016 is now generally available, Microsoft Azure Stack, which was released as a technical preview in January and as an updated preview in September, won’t be delivered until mid-2017. Not only is the platform still a work in progress, but when it is finally released, customers will be limited in terms of the hardware on which it’s offered. Only servers from Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo with be integrated with Azure Stack. With more time for competition to respond and limited hardware choices for customers, Azure Stack could be at the back of the pack when all is said and done.
The shift away from full desktop virtualization toward app virtualization is just one of the reasons Citrix XenApp takes the cake. Another factor to consider is that Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10, which won’t support all of the legacy applications organizations have. Even without the leg up from Windows 10 adopters, XenApp provides flexibility for administrators who want the freedom to choose what devices and apps they use. Also, the recent update to XenApp is a considerable improvement, with Microsoft integrations, multilocation management and new service options.
Enhanced features and security capabilities may bridge the technical gap between Citrix XenServer 7 and its competitors, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a win for the company. Without a surrounding ecosystem and product base, customers just aren’t going to choose it over VMware ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V, nor will they see a reason to switch from their existing hypervisor provider. Automation is a big factor for administrators to consider as well. XenServer 7 doesn’t include built-in automation capabilities, so PowerShell scripting must be used instead.
Sometimes simplicity is key, and if customer response is any indication, Ansible 2.0 proves it. The automation and configuration management software, which was acquired by Red Hat in October 2015, went through some back-end re-engineering to address scalability issues and improve cloud deployments, among other things. Portability across infrastructure set ups has been improved as well. What really sets Ansible 2.0 apart, though, is community involvement. The new version includes over 150 new modules. Other improvements to the software include execution modes that reduce deployment times and task blocks that ease playbook development.
Ongoing OpenStack challenges may mean trouble for Red Hat, as deployment and security are still significant stumbling blocks for users. With OpenStack adoption lagging, Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure, based on the open source platform, might follow suit. To build a customized system, companies need employees with the technical skills to do so without vendor-provided support. Also, as the technology is still a work in progress, potential risks can become serious problems, especially at a larger scale. OpenStack may provide flexibility, but as a complex architecture, it’s only fit for specific use cases. As such — for the foreseeable future anyway — it doesn’t look like it’ll become a mainstream product.
LAS VEGAS — There have been some years at VMware’s annual VMworld conference where the company sold more sizzle than steak when introducing new technologies and their associated roadmaps. At this year’s show here this week, the company had some steak to work with — but forgot the sizzle.
After a few dismal attempts to break into the hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) market with lackluster offerings including EVO:RAIL and EVO:RACK, VMware delivered a better idea with VMware Cloud Foundation.
In a nutshell, VMware Cloud Foundations combines the company’s HCI software, vSphere and VSAN, with its increasingly popular NSX networking software. The company also will offer the bundled technology as a new as-a-service offering — finally — and users can download the software to any hardware platform of their choosing.
While users can still get the VMware Cloud Foundation bundled with the hardware of qualified hardware manufacturers, some conference attendees liked the option of purchasing just the software from VMware and installing it themselves.
“It’s a smarter move for a couple of reasons,” said Bill Hewitt, a systems administrator with a Phoenix-based financial investment company. First, it could keep costs down “by keeping it out of the hands of server companies who tend to tack on added costs,” he said. Additionally, “it also allows us to tune it to the platform of our choice.”
Cloud Foundation also includes VMware SDDC Manager, which helps both users and service providers automate the deployment and management of VMware’s entire cloud stack.
The primary functions of the offering are to give cloud operators a tool to deploy, configure, patch and upgrade the entire system including NSX, VSAN and vCenter ESX. It can also automate the deployment of products such as Horizon and vRealize, according to Ajay Patel, senior vice president and general manager of VMware’s cloud provider software business unit.
“We see this [VMware Cloud Foundation] as the next-generation hyper-converged infrastructure for building private and hybrid clouds,” Patel said. “And by adding NSX [with VMware Cloud Foundation], we not only deliver a hyper-converged architecture but a lot of agile network management and micro-segmentation.”
While some attendees liked the story they heard, they were left wanting for more details on how some of the technology worked that would result in complete hyper-converged package to make it easier to launch private and hybrid clouds.
“It’s a better story I heard from them this year about how hyper-converged could help me launch and manage a cloud environments,” said one CTO with a mid-size Los Angeles-based credit union. However, “I need them to better explain the aspects of micro-segmentation [in NSX] and how that helps me stand up [a cloud environment] that gives me the agility they are talking about.”
“They did a good job with the soup-to-nuts thing of explaining how [VMware Cloud Foundation] plays into the HCI systems, but they needed to spend more time on the newer automation software under the covers,” said an IT manager with a Phoenix-based transportation company. “They could have had more clarity and energy to the presentation, which was a little too slick.”
Ed Scannell is a senior executive editor with TechTarget. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
If there’s one piece of advice I’d give to first-time VMworld attendees, it’d be to sign up early for breakout sessions. VMworld’s 2016 Schedule Builder goes live July 19, and you can expect the most popular sessions to reach capacity soon after. If you don’t want to be waiting in the overflow line outside a packed room, it pays to review the session library, have a few options in mind and sign up early.
With that in mind, we’ve picked through this year’s catalog to help you get a jump start on the crowds when the sign up window opens next week. Of course, these are just suggestions and are geared toward IT professionals using VMware’s server virtualization products, but there’s something here for everyone. Be sure to let us know in the comments below which sessions you’re looking forward to, or if we missed some of your favorites.
- INF8375: What’s New in vSphere
What would VMworld be without this perennial favorite? If you’re curious where vSphere is headed, what’s up with the new HTML5 client or want to learn about upcoming features, be sure to check out this session. And of course, if you have any lingering complaints about VMware’s flagship product, this is your chance to be heard.
Speaker: Michael Adams, senior director of product marketing, VMware
- INF8644: Getting the Most out of vMotion: Architecture, Features, Performance and Debugging
One of the most commonly-used vSphere features, vMotion is loved by many and fully understood by few. As its title suggests, this technical session will cover new capabilities and tools for performance troubleshooting. The session description also teases a sneak peek at future directions for the live migration technology, including encrypted vMotion and vMotion to public clouds.
Speakers: Arunachalam Ramanathan, staff engineer, VMware
Sreekanth Setty, staff engineer 2, VMware
- DEVOP9093: Unpanel: How I Survived the DevOps Transition
Will you survive? Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but more companies are beginning to consider a DevOps approach, which often presents unfamiliar challenges. This interactive session between IT operations professionals and developers should make for an interesting discussion — one in which the audience is invited to participate.
Speakers: Suzanne Ambiel, portfolio marketing Cloud Native, OpenStack, VMware
Tom Hite, director, DevOps and Cloud Native Applications, VMware
Reginald Lo, senior director, Advisory Services, VMware
- NET8193R: The Architectural Future of Network Virtualization
What’s next for network virtualization? This session will offer a technical deep dive into the future of network virtualization. It’s also possible attendees may hear about technical previews for future NSX features.
Speaker: Bruce Davie, CTO Networking, VMware
- STO8256: Introducing Virtual SAN for VMware Photon: The Best HCI Platform for Containers and Cloud-Native Applications
VMware’s Photon Platform, unveiled at VMworld 2015, offers a streamlined deployment option for containers. One of the most prominent challenges with managing containers is the storage layer, which this session promises to address. This session’s description also hints at upcoming Virtual SAN updates: “This new implementation of VMware Virtual SAN is designed to deliver the very best hyper-converged infrastructure architecture and experience to satisfy the management and storage needs and requirements of the Photon Platform, containers, and cloud-native applications.”
Speakers: Christian Dickmann, senior staff engineer, VMware
Rawlinson Rivera, principal architect, Office of CTO – SABU, VMware
- STO8159: Snapshots Suck: How VSAN and VVols fix all your operational nightmares
Snapshots are meant to provide quick roll-back points and have important use cases, but they can quickly grow out of control and present performance problems. While fixing all of your operational nightmares might be a bit optimistic, this session is sure to be popular for administrators wanting to learn how newer VMware technologies can help better manage snapshots.
Speakers: Pete Flecha, senior technical marketing architect, VMware
John Nicholson, senior technical marketing manager, VMware
- INF8255: vSphere API 101: Harnessing the Power for the Everyday Admin
This session’s speakers, William Lam and Alan Renouf, are among the best-known VMware bloggers for their insightful technical posts. Their session will serve as an introduction the vSphere API, including practical examples for both vSphere administrators and developers. It will also include a technical preview for future capabilities.
Speakers: William Lam, senior SDDC integration architect, VMware
Alan Renouf, product line manager, VMware
- INF8045: vSphere High Availability Best Practices and Tech Preview
Another bread-and-butter session that’s always popular, this session typically covers best practices and technical explanations. This year’s itinerary also says the session, “will spend a great deal of time on tech preview features.”
Speakers: Manoj Krishnan, vSphere HA tech lead, VMware
Matthew Meyer, technical marketing, VMware
- HBC9401: What’s new with vCloud Air
What is new? Over the last year, all we’ve heard about vCloud Air has been rumors that the company had cut development as a possible Virtustream joint venture was explored. That initiative fell apart, but where does that leave the company’s public cloud now? It’s also worth mentioning that the two co-general managers presenting this session were recently tapped to replace Bill Fathers, when he added his name to the list of former vCloud executives who’ve recently departed.
Speakers: Laura Ortman, VP & co-GM, vCloud Air, VMware
Allwyn Sequeira, senior VP & co-GM, vCloud Air, VMware
- NET8241: Monitoring and Troubleshooting NSX with vRealize Network Insight (Arkin)
Customers interested in learning how VMware would integrate its latest acquisition should attend this session, which features the new VMware brand name for Arkin’s product. Visibility and simplified management of VMware’s NSX will be key to the product’s long-term success. The session’s description also hints at integration with VMware’s Log Insight tool.
Speakers: Vyenkatesh Deshpande, senior product line manager, VMware
Sean O’Dell, senior systems engineer, Arkin
In an attempt to close the gap in the race for hypervisor supremacy, Citrix rolled out XenServer 7 in May 2016. The company’s latest hypervisor offering boasts new features and a unique security capability that makes it more comparable to VMware and Microsoft.
The real question is, does it matter?
VMware had a large lead with ESXi but Microsoft’s Hyper-V has closed the gap over time and now Citrix has caught up—at least from a technical perspective.
Even as Citrix inches closer to the competition in terms of features, the sheer volume of VMware’s existing customer base and the lack of an ecosystem and products tied to XenServer 7 will keep it in the back seat for now.
“The base product itself is now on par with the offerings from VMware and Microsoft, however what is missing is the ecosystem around them,” said Brian Kirsch, an IT architect and instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College. “A stand-alone hypervisor is just that, stand-alone. The real feature of a hypervisor is what else you can do with it. Citrix has taken a first step with the addition of the higher-end graphics ability but that also makes sense given Citrix’s application focus. XenServer doesn’t have an ecosystem built around it like XenApp and XenDesktop do, and the [new] XenServer offering shows nice stand-alone improvements but lacks in the features to make it a central point in a data center.”
Citrix made a big leap back in 2009 when they integrated Active Directory with the release of XenServer 5.5. The company is hoping to make another push with the new features in XenServer 7. Citrix has added support for the Server Message Block (SMB) storage protocol in XenServer 7. For those using a Microsoft Windows environment, the new support for SMBs will help utilize existing file shares.
Citrix didn’t stop there with new Microsoft capabilities in XenServer 7. Now, users can update the XenServer tools through a Windows update.
“Certainly from a feature perspective, a technical perspective, all of the hypervisor vendors have been improving a lot to compete with VMware, who is the market leader,” said Gary Chen, a research manager for IDC’s Cloud and Virtualization System Software. “There is a gap there but it’s much closer than it’s ever been. I think at this point, even if someone came out with a product that was feature-for-feature equivalent to VMware, it would be difficult to gain traction in the market primarily because there is an installed base of VMware so you’d be looking at a migration scenario, which is never pretty.”
Chen added that the ecosystem is very important for hypervisors, noting that a company could roll out the greatest hypervisor in the world but if there isn’t enough integration or certifications, it might not matter.
Another reason that Citrix is inching closer to ESXi and Hyper-V in the feature department is its new security capability. XenServer 7 now has Direct Inspect APIs, which allows third-party vendors to help secure the operating system. Direct Inspect APIs allows the admin to look into the VM to see what it’s doing for security reasons.
“VMware has something similar with vShield and they’ve basically been the only ones who had something like that,” Chen said. “So XenServer coming out with their security feature kind of surprised me. I didn’t think other hypervisor vendors were working on that technology. But it makes sense because I think it’s something they felt they needed on the competitive side for desktops.”
The latest version of XenServer also has increased the amount of NVIDIA vGPU-enabled virtual machines it can support. Citrix’s hypervisor was the first to support NVIDIA vGPU technology and has continued to grow its support levels. XenServer 7 also has increased scalability support for host RAM, CPU cores and VM RAM.
While XenServer 7’s features are bringing it on par with ESXi and Hyper-V, it still lags behind because of its lack of a surrounding ecosystem. Microsoft still has the best shot at catching VMware because so many users already have existing Windows environments. For Citrix to compete, they will need to narrow their focus.
“I think Citrix is kind of picking and choose its battles,” Chen said. “They’re saying, ‘Let’s not go after general purpose virtualization, let’s go after specific use cases where we think we can win, particular geography areas.’ I think they’re becoming more focused and will find a spot where they can have an advantage or a chance to compete.”
XenServer 7 was made general available at the end of May 2016.
The shakeup at VMware continues.
The company confirmed this week that COO Carl Eschenbach is leaving for venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. Eschenbach was VMware COO since April 2012 and a 14-year VMware veteran.
While the departure of a COO would be a significant move for any company, it wouldn’t necessarily catch our eye – except that it’s just the latest entry on a growing list of executive changes for VMware.
In January, CFO Jonathan Chadwick left VMware and the firm also cut 800 jobs – many from its vCloud Air and Fusion business groups. Then, just last week senior vice president (and former Nicira CTO) Martin Casado left VMware for another venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz.
In August 2015 CTO Ben Fathi left the company. Matthew Lodge, VP of cloud services left in October, and then earlier this year, VMware lost VP and chief technologist Simone Brunozzi.
As the list of departed executives grows longer – and especially given their timing — it becomes harder to believe that this is simply a confluence of unrelated career moves, and not somehow related to the unfolding Dell-EMC acquisition. One analyst suggests the recent technology changes VMware has made alone demands a change in personnel.
“Just two weeks ago [VMware CEO Pat] Gelsinger was getting everyone onboard with the portfolio changes, like how NSX was going to be the next big revenue driver,” said Andrew Smith, software analyst at Technology Business Research, Inc. (TBR) in Hampton, NH. “They are in the midst of a pretty big shift that I think warrants some executive changes.”
Gelsinger is certainly trying to paint the changes in a positive light, saying this week that the company is “well positioned to continue helping our customers transition to the mobile-cloud era.” His choice of words, though — specifically the ‘mobile-cloud era’ — also highlights the company’s focus moving forward. VMware has been a company in transition for the last several years as it has created new business units to expand beyond server virtualization.
“VMware is at a very precarious point in its history as the first [wave of] server virtualization is largely taped out and it looks like the pendulum is going to swing back with the rise of bare metal in the cloud,” said Geoffrey Woollacott, principal analyst/practice manager, Software and BI at TBR. “They know they need to diversify their revenue streams away from their cash cow.”
VMware’s value proposition in the market has endured for many years but the industry cycles are now churning ever faster, and they need to quickly move to more fertile ground, Woollacott said.
That fertile ground has been a bit hard to find as of late. The company’s vCloud Air business has floundered, and the company acknowledges its first step into hyper-converged infrastructure with EVO:RAIL wasn’t the success it hoped.
Some of these initiatives, such as its end-user computing (EUC) platform, have been very successful. It’s telling that Sanjay Poonen, executive VP and GM for its EUC division, will expand his role to lead the company’s worldwide marketing and communications.
However, the recent exodus of executive talent could undermine the confidence of users just beginning to seriously evaluate Dell, EMC and VMware’s more traditional data center-class products. For IT shops that have already completed a revamp of their data centers with products from each company, the recent brain drain shouldn’t have much impact on future buying decisions.
“It depends on where you are in your technology cycle,” Woollacott said. “If you made a major transformation bet three years ago to consolidate the data center around Dell and EMC products, you would be OK with buying a few more. But if you are at the beginning of rebuilding your architecture, you are taking a harder look at alternatives.”
Ed Scannell, senior executive editor, also contributed to this post.
VMware unveiled the latest version of its Virtual SAN software this week, and while the release includes welcome improvements, VMware’s marketing message is missing the mark.
Virtual SAN 6.2 adds several upgrades that customers will appreciate, though the addition of in-line deduplication and compression will only be for all-flash arrays.
The software also comes with a renewed marketing push to label VSAN as the key component of what VMware is now calling its “Hyper-Converged Software (VMware HCS) stack.” That stack also apparently includes vSphere and vCenter Server.
VMware has been pushing the converged angle of its VSAN software for some time, but with this latest push, I think it’s time to cut through some of the hype to reflect on what hyper-convergence actually means.
Even the most basic definition of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) describes a system which integrates (or converges) both software and hardware components. Today, that’s come to mean appliances from vendors, such as Nutanix and SimpliVity, that combine compute, storage, networking as well as software that may include a hypervisor (which effectively abstracts compute), and a software-defined storage layer that abstracts the local storage on each node. Many appliances also include backup or resiliency features, performance management tools as well as deduplication and compression.
One of the main draws to this hyper-converged approach is that customers love the simplicity of plugging in an integrated appliance and the ability to simply plug in more to scale. But that’s not VSAN or VMware’s HCS stack. Software bundling is not analogous to hyperconvergence. Yet, VMware still claims to be number one in the hyper-converged market. I don’t have access to any firm numbers, but I’d go so far as to speculate that the vast majority of VSAN installs aren’t delivering HCI as we understand it today.
It’s easy to forget with all this hype about VSAN that VMware actually has a hyper-converged infrastructure offering—or at least I think they do. And they’re certainly not number one.
VMware released EVO:RAIL to much fanfare at VMworld 2014. It was later met with customer complaints about licensing and adoption lagged. Now, it seems VMware is unwilling to admit defeat in the hyper-converged space and is instead turning its attention to pumping up the converged angle of VSAN, even as rumors swirl that the company plans to phase out or even terminate EVO:RAIL. You may remember that VMware also promised a larger-scale converged offering first called EVO:RACK and then rebranded as EVO:SDDC. Still no word on if that product will see the light of day or whether VMware will leave non-Federation hardware partners out in the cold.
In fact, early next week we’re expecting VCE to introduce VxRail—a hyperconverged appliance that sounds remarkably similar to everything the EMC Federation hoped EVO:RAIL would be.
Details of VxRail have yet to be publicly released, but expect to hear that VCE will take on the role of integrator for the Federation, effectively repackaging VMware’s software stack into easily digestible appliances based on EMC (and who knows, maybe Dell) hardware.
However, unlike the much-hyped introduction of EVO:RAIL, don’t expect to hear much talk from VMware executives about the company’s independence and its ability to offer customers a choice when it comes to hardware platforms. Instead, you’ll hear how preferred hardware integrations will save customers money and offer better performance—and all of this at a time when VMware should be recognizing that its ability to lock customers in to its hypervisor is beginning to wane.
If VMware is serious about its software-defined data center vision, then it should keep its focus on providing products that help deemphasize hardware rather than giving preferential treatment to some. On the other hand, if your goal is to generate short-term profit for EMC—which is currently slogging through an acquisition fraught with financial complexities—then VxRail makes perfect sense.
By Ed Scannell and Nick Martin
The bloodletting at VMware has begun.
Reports published over the past several days about the company laying off as many as 900 of its 18,000 or so employees are proving correct, as dozens of affected workers are posting about their experiences on a message board.
The groups taking the biggest hit appear to be the vCloud Air, Fusion and Workstation groups, the latter focusing on end-user virtualization. The entire Fusion and Workstation groups are “gone” as of yesterday (Monday), according to one anonymous VMware employee. Reportedly, VMware is moving all Fusion and Workstation development to China.
Already confirmed today is the company will close its Burlington, Canada technical support center where 100 employees will lose their jobs.
The cuts made to vCloud Air may reflect the company’s decision in late November to scrap the 50-50 joint venture with EMC to pull together a more cohesive hybrid cloud strategy. Besides vCloud Air, the joint venture was to be made up of Virtustream, which EMC acquired for $1.2 billion last May, plus VCE’s Cloud Managed Services and EMC’s Storage Managed and Object Storage services.
EMC, which owns about 80% of VMware, announced in a SEC filing late last month its intention to lay off an unspecified number of employees over the course of 2016. According to sources familiar with EMC’s plans, the company could let go as many as 20,000 of its 100,000 or so employees by the end of this year.
Analysts and other industry observers have speculated since late last year that Dell, EMC and VMware — particularly the first two — would have to sell off parts of their respective businesses or consolidate groups across the companies, including through layoffs, to raise enough cash to finance the $67 billion deal. In November, the company was reported to be facing a whopping $9 billion tax bill, which further cast doubt on the deal being approved by shareholders and the companies’ respective boards of directors.