VMworld 2007 round-up

The VMware premiere conference, VMworld, continues to grow: from over 7,000 attendees in 2006 to almost 11,000 this year.

Even this year virtualization.info was present as VMware guest and met tents of VMware executives, partners and customers in the busiest week of the year.

Besides live coverage during all keynotes (day 1 / day 2 / day 3), it’s time to publish a little more extended summary of what emerged during the event.

The explicit message of this year has been: virtualization will be ubiquitous.

VMware decided to open the conference with the announcement of ESX Server 3i, which drops the dependency from Linux distributions for the Service Console, and finally promotes the hypervisor as a truly independent platform.

ESX Server 3i will be part of upcoming VMware Infrastructure 3.5, which introduces a lot of remarkable features, but VMware decided to not mention any of them, focusing just on this new hypervisor edition. And this is because 3i is not just a parallel version of ESX Server, but a completely new architecture which will gradually replace existing one.

virtualization.info has learned VMware will continue to support ESX Server 3.0.x products for years to come, but next releases of the plaftorm will be based on the new appraoch only, simplifying integration with OEMs servers and adoption in SMB market.

But virtualization ubiquity concept has been promoted also by AMD and Intel, which are literally shaping their new CPUs around virtualization needs, adding nested paging technologies and P2V migration support, and by Cisco, which believes in virtualization as the main infrastructure for tomorrow’s datacenters.

The implicit message of this year has been: virtualization is about to revolution the IT.

This year VMware provided a show of power with some demos during keynote and technical preview sessions, passing the concept that virtualization is not only achieving new tasks like server consolidation and improving others like software development, but it’s slowly changing every aspect of the information technology world. Approaches, implementations, results.

The upcoming Continuous High Availability technology is able to backup running servers in a new way, duplicating every aspect of process execution over the network in real-time. It’s the experimental feature introduced in Workstation 6, Record/Replay, applied to disaster recovery.

The upcoming OnDemand technology is able to deliver a working virtual machine over the network in the same time required to boot a locally-installed operating system. It’s the Software as a Service (SaaS) approach that application virtualization vendors are actualizing with streaming, applied to entire operating systems instead of single applications (virtualization.info predicted this feature one year ago, when VMware launched Virtual Appliance concept).

The upcoming Scalable Image Management (SIM) technology is able to deliver hundreds or thousands of virtual machines in seconds, patching the operating system inside or updating the applications on top of it, while retaining user customizations. It’s the snapshot feature applied to hosting industry.

And many other examples of how VMware is slightly applying virtualization to different areas of IT, moving from being a software vendor into being a revolutionary solutions provider.

The overall theme has been: the virtualization ecosystem is exploding.

Over 130 partners and competitors (something that is always amazing about VMworld) covered a huge exhibition floor, which would require a couple of days just to visit and really understand company proposals.

In four days these vendors and almost every news magazine on the planet issued an embarrassing amount of press announcements and articles, generating a huge, confusing overload of informations that no professional would be able to digest in less than one month.
(many of these annoucements abused the term virtualization while several articles reported inconsistent or erroneous news. virtualization.info hopes to simplify the hard work of readers with its strict publishing policy)

During VMworld several acquisition and partnerships were announced. New companies left stealth mode, and new products were launched (check the list below for a complete summary).

It was evident how this market is literally exploding and is set for further major changes in the near future. In particular VMware President, Diane Greene, confirmed that the company will spend part of money raised with its IPO to achieve acquisitions of small companies, but other major players like Microsoft, Sun, Novell, Citrix, SWsoft, IBM, HP and others are likely to further aggregate the ecosystem.

The big missing of this year has been, once again: the SMB offering.

VMworld could be renamed ESXworld and nobody would notice, considering 99% focus of the company on its datacenter solution.

Despite marketing efforts about VMware Server, Workstation and ACE, a minimal amount of sessions covered these products, and a minimal amount of people attended them accordingly.

Seeing just 40-50 people (over almost 11,000) at first and only Server 2.0 technical preview session demonstrated how limited is awareness and interest in this product. On top of that almost everybody in the room was also adopting ESX Server.

The session itself revelead how Server 2.0, which is still in early development stage, is mainly aiming at changing the product architecture to simplify migration to VMware Infrastructure 3, rather than following its own development path. Lack of new unique features in the presentation spread doubts about meaning of this product as it is today.

Isn’t easier (and less expensive) to distribute a free, features-limited version of ESX Server, and move those few unique features that Server is still offering (like web management) to Workstation?

Like last year, VMworld 2007 didn’t represent SMBs. All upcoming technologies VMware previewed are clearly targeting large scale deployments, and ESX Server 3i isn’t changing much.

What has been announced during the conference timeframe:

Products and services from VMware:

Products and services from other virtualization vendors:

Acquisitions, partnerships and alliances:

(both Virtualization Industry Radar and Virtualization Industry Roadmap have been updated accordingly)

A final word on the event itself

This year VMware seemed to encounter major difficulties handling so many attendees. A couple of major issues lowered the overall quality of the event compared to previous year.

First, every session had 15-minutes queues to get in, sometimes addressed by conference center staff with army manners (whistles and rollcalls). And most of time some attendees had to give up.

Second and no less imporant, food quality was way under acceptable standards.

Extended wireless connection, increased Internet workstations, bigger hands-on-lab facilities were all welcome improvements but could compensate first two shortcomings.

VMworld is still a mandatory event for every virtualization professional out there but next year, in Las Vegas, VMware has to show a better control of fundamental aspects of the conference, or think about reducing overall number of attendees.