This year's VMworld 2014 was an amazing conference in many ways. The growing attendance and excitement in the expo hall showed beyond any doubt that the VMware community is alive and well. One of the big trends from VMworld 2014 was hyper-converged infrastructure, but perhaps the most striking thing was how different VMware's approach to the SDDC and the cloud is from Microsoft's. Finally, if there was one overriding theme, it was that business technology is on the verge of massive change and that IT should be the leaders of that change. Let's take a little closer look.
First, what exactly is hyper-converged infrastructure? Hyper-converged systems are modular appliances that are designed to scale up and scale out. As an appliance, they combine compute, memory, and storage into a single appliance. Hyper-converged systems are a step beyond converged systems and, according to VMware's CEO Pat Gelsinger, they are the future of the data center. Converged systems are comprised of separate components that are engineered to work well together. Hyper-converged systems are modular systems that are preconfigured appliances. They are designed to scale up by adding more memory of storage per module. They are also designed to scale out by adding additional modules. They are engineered for high availability and redundancy, and they run as clustered units that will continue uninterrupted even if a module fails. At VMworld 2014, some of the prime examples were VMware's new EVO Rail and Rack product lines and the Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform.
VMware vs Microsoft
Although their final destination may be similar, VMware and Microsoft are each trying to take IT Pros on completely different paths. VMware is attempting to enable IT Pros to grow into the cloud by expanding their existing on-premises infrastructure and then providing NSX (VMware's network virtualization software) to help make the on-premises-to-cloud bridge seamless. In essence, VMware is attempting to leverage its existing virtualization base to move customers to the cloud. Most attendees were receptive to this message, as it continued to place a strong emphasis on the existing on-premises data centers. In contrast, since TechEd and maybe somewhat before, Microsoft has been attempting to encourage customers to use its Azure cloud to leap-frog past virtualization into the cloud. This approach leverages Microsoft's global data centers and also encourages adaptation of Azure. At TechEd, this approach resulted in the fairly cool (to say the least) reception by IT Pros, as many felt like they were being pushed a message that ignored their current data center investment and concerns. Perhaps in reaction to this, Microsoft's Brad Anderson Vice President Data Platform made his own recap of VMworld 2014. In his blog, Brad Anderson didn't really discuss any VMware technology but instead highlighted Azure's main selling points and went on to conclude "The bottom line here is simple: You need to compare Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility Suite & Office with what VMware announced today (the VMware Workspace Suite). I strongly believe that the value being delivered through the Enterprise Mobility Suite is far greater that what VMware can deliver". This may be a fair statement if you just compare the two mobility suites, but VMware is providing a technology base that reaches beyond just the mobility space. Microsoft should pay attention because VMware has a message today that's closer to the hearts and minds of IT Pros.
The biggest message from VMworld 2014 is that IT technology is on the verge of massive and disruptive change and IT Pros are the ones who can best lead their companies into new technology areas. The emergence of the SDDC, the hybrid and public cloud and the rapid adoption of mobility are driving IT to new places, and IT Pros can take the lead going there or risk getting left behind.