By Kurt Marko for Channel Partners
VMworld has become an annual rite of passage that marks the end of summer for thousands of IT professionals, infrastructure vendors and partners. About 12,000 of them filled the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas this week to hear VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and other company executives unveil details about new products and partnerships.
The event traditionally has focused on VMware’s core users – virtual system administrators and IT managers with large software investments – but this year’s themes were designed to appeal to a more diverse audience of cloud adopters and developers.
Click through our gallery for picutres and a recap.
Photos courtesy VMware
Tech icon and, after Dell's acquisition of EMC and the merging of their channels, now chairman of VMware, Michael Dell provided plenty of star power at the event. Pictured here with CEO Pat Gelsinger (left), Dell emphasized the strategic importance of VMware and the conglomerate's other cloud-related product lines, Pivotal (PaaS) and Virtustream (IaaS for mission critical applications), to the company's overall strategy.
Despite the excitement around Michael Dell's frequent presence throughout the event – at both keynotes, two Q&A sessions with press and analysts and undoubtedly countless meetings with customers and partners – the big draw was the long-awaited release of service details, including pricing, service partners and, more importantly for the channel, partnership opportunities around VMware's previously announced agreement with AWS. In a marriage of titans, the major vendor of enterprise virtual infrastructure has worked with the Big Kahuna of public cloud services to transform the core VMware software stack, including vSphere virtual instances, VSAN storage and NSX virtual network management, into an on-demand cloud service running on AWS infrastructure.
Although VMware Cloud on AWS doesn't roll off the tongue, it represents a significant strategic development for both VMware and AWS. Indeed, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger emphasized that the service is in response to significant customer demand, as evidenced by data he shared from an internal survey showing that 77 percent of VMware customers are currently using a public cloud, up 21 points from last year, with an additional 20 percent evaluating IaaS or PaaS.
When almost all of your customers are looking at a technology that can completely disrupt your business, VMware realized it needed a more compelling cloud strategy than the now-jettisoned vCloud Air.
However, the importance of the service to AWS as it attempts to further penetrate an enterprise market where Microsoft Azure is particularly strong was underscored by the presence of AWS CEO Andy Jassy at the keynote and press conference.
Throughout the event, VMware emphasized its holistic vision of not only extending its infrastructure and associated management services across multiple cloud platforms, but layering on application development and client device management capabilities to provide an end-to-end IT stack.
Ironically, VMware is positioning itself as a cloud-agnostic Switzerland that can break down the silos that currently result when implementing a multi-cloud IT strategy.
Aside from the AWS details, some of the biggest announcements at VMworld targeted infrastructure security. Executives shared a strategy designed to focus security on applications, not infrastructure, by building security into its core virtual compute, network and storage software.
But VMware understands that security is too big a job for any one company, so presentations emphasized the importance of building a partner ecosystem to both develop compatible products and help organizations design and deploy the security controls necessary for their businesses.
VMware has already evolved its NSX virtual network management and control software into a powerful security tool and followed it up this year with a new product, AppDefense, designed to provide the same sort of granular isolation and controls for virtualized applications. Using an intent-based model in which IT defines acceptable “good” behavior rather than trying to maintain a list of defenses for undesirable and blocked “bad” actions, AppDefense exploits VMware's access to the low-level hypervisor to monitor activity in a way other products can't match.
The other significant announcements showed a new VMware making good on its cloud neutrality by introducing a set of VMware infrastructure management services that work with (or are planned to) any of the major cloud providers. Aside from AppDefense these include products for:
VMware also announced a partnership between Pivotal Labs and Google Cloud that developed a new Pivotal Container Service (PKS) that uses Kubernetes for cluster management and is fully compatible with Google's Container Engine (GKE). The combination allows organizations to build hybrid container environments in which workloads can quickly and painlessly move back and forth between private and public infrastructure.
VMware's announcements show its willingness to work with major software companies; however, executives often stressed the importance of channel, service provider and smaller software partners to build product ecosystems, vertical industry/market solution stacks and other business services. To that end, the company hosted a day long private session before the main event, the Partner Exchange, to share technical and sales information, road maps and provide product certification training.