I like VMware. I like Google. Heck, both of them keep me more than busy with development ideas. But I have a problem with them. Google started it with Gmail. Although it is hard to remember now, Gmail was in beta forever. Oh wait, it still is? Huh. I guess I just figured it *must* have hit production by now. Then there is Google News, Google Apps, Google Page Creator, Google everything else — all beta . I am honestly surprised search hits don’t come back with the “beta” tag next to them. I guess they thought ICQ was the cat’s meow, and that the whole beta thing had a nice ring to it.
Enter VMware, which is perilously close to become the next Google in terms of heavily pushing new features, but then labeling them as beta or experimental. Take for example Storage VMotion (SVMotion). VMware played up this new feature to VI 3.5 last fall at their North American VMworld conference, but when it was release there was no graphical user interface (GUI) option for it. How is that ready for prime-time? And then there is virtual machine (VM) high availability (HA), another marketed feature that is so experimental you have to edit an advanced setting (as a free-form string) just to enable the functionality.
I wouldn’t actually have a problem with VMware doing this if they didn’t market the heck out these new “features.” Excuse me for being old fashioned, but it isn’t enterprise-ready if it is beta or labeled experimental. And VMware makes no bones about this; they plainly state that these features should not be used in production. However, on the other hand they make a big show about the same set of features, whipping the crowd to a fever pitch of excitement. You can’t have it both ways, guys.
Take VMware Fusion 2 or VMware Server 2. These products are in beta stages right now and VMware is not making a big deal about them. Sure, they are out there for people to get, but VMware isn’t throwing them at customers, not the way they revolved last year’s North American and this year’s European VMworld conferences on features that were not even ready for production.
Then there is the other end of the spectrum as well. I recently discovered that VMware is strategically hiding a long sought feature of ESX in the bowels of its software development kit (SDK). Since version 2.5 of the SDK (VI 3.5), VMware has included the ability (although it does not yet appear to be working correctly) to create network address translation (NAT) and dynamic host control protocol (DHCP) devices directly on ESX servers for VMs to use. This is awesome! Prior to this, the only way to create NATd networks on an ESX host was to dual home a VM to a public and private port group, have it act as the NAT and DHCP server, and then attach other VMs to the same network as its private interface. This solution was cumbersome and did not work well when VMotioning VMs. If I was VMware, I would make a little bit more noise about the fact that they are working on this feature.
I want to reiterate that I like, if not love, VMware. I just hate getting jazzed about a new feature that they have thrown at me, only to find out that it is a curve ball. VMware needs to make sure that features that are experimental should be announced with an asterisk next to their headline, while at the same time working a little harder to ensure that some other upcoming features get the love they deserve.