What’s a Multi-cloud Really? Some Insider Notes from VMworld 2017

Taneja Group Analysis

As comfortable 65-70 degree weather blankets New England here as we near end of summer, flying into Las Vegas for VMworld at 110 degrees seemed like dropping into hell. Last time I was in that kind of heat I was stepping off a C-130 into the Desert Shield/Desert Storm theater of operations. At least here, as everyone still able to breathe immediately says -“at least it’s a dry heat.”

Anyway, VMworld inside was much nicer – what must be massive A/C investments and potentially boosted oxygen (casino rumors abound) make staying inside the artificial disney-esque environment for days on end bearable. For us analysts, VMworld is work after all! We had a great set of meetings with a number of our past (and hopefully future) clients at the show, and got some great inside scoop on VMware plans during their analyst sessions. Past the top line news and keynote announcements, here are a few deeper notes of interest:

1. VMware continues and even accelerated their transition from hypervisor software developer to management solutions provider. NSX is not only a big part of their enterprise revenue these days (is it in every ELA?), but has become a fundamental and/or enabling technology underpinning many new offerings like App Defender, multi-cloud services like VMware on AWS, and Network Insight.  Basically, NSX is now the glue, the “aether” that forms VMware’s multi-cloud management “space”.

Also VMware rolled out seven (yes, 7!) Management as a Service (MaaS) offerings. Four of these are based on vROPs technologies that have been re-hosted and repackaged for cloud SaaS style delivery. And we know there are more coming down the pike. I’ve previously talked about how important it is to get those MaaS services out there as the inevitable future consumption model for all systems management. These new services are bound to attract those IT shops wanting to focus less on maintaining management tools, and spend more time efficiently operating hybrid multi-cloud architectures.

2. The VMworld show floor has been a storage vendor showcase the past few years, with more storage vendors fighting for attention than anybody else – bigger, flashier booths and all. But it seems this year that the mainline storage vendors are settling back a bit – maybe this is because VMware VSAN is growing gangbusters (although they can hardly not succeed just on a naive attach rate to VMware ELA renewals), or the presence of Dell EMC storage has taken the wind out of the other guys at this show, or in this space HCI (and “open convergence” too) is where it’s at these days.

It could also be that past storage hoopla at the show stemmed from the crashing of flash throughout the market – and now flash-based competition is smoothing out since everyone now has flash engineered storage. This year, NVMe was on everyone’s roadmap, but very little NVMe is out there ready to roll. I’d definitely look to next year as the big year for NVMe vendor wars – who will get it first, who will be fastest, who will be most cost-efficient… I expect similar competitive story lines that we saw with flash happen again with NVMe.

Marketing for Data protection on the other hand seems to have moved up a big notch. Vendors like Cohesity have lots to offer those with large virtual (and cloudy) environments.  Secondary storage might not at first seem that sexy, but today it can make all the difference in how well the whole enterprise IT effort actually works for it’s business customers.

3. VMware’s Cloud Management (i.e. vROPs et.al.), in addition to having new MaaS options as above, is expanding with NSX derived information, and the already SaaS based Wavefront (more cloud-scale outside in dev-ops style monitoring).  Independent system management vendors like Embotics are also finding new running room and larger opportunities these days, as enterprises are finally embracing multi-cloud strategies in earnest.  Look for some new innovation in this space that includes machine learning, bigger data, cross-cloud and hybrid single management. 

Also everyone is talking about cloud native applications, in other words, containers and container management.  This space is young yet, but of course enteprise IT will want to manage container environments like they do virtual machine environments (and its all now multi-cross-cloud and devops too).  VMware announced PKS, but the real story is yet to come on how IT can effectively manage 100k temporal and temperamental containers (or at least the infrastructure for them), not just 1k rather stable VM’s.

4. Not center stage *yet*, but I did hear of a few fascinating infrastructure “thing” developments (beyond NVMe FUD). At the expanding distributed edge of internet devices, VMware is looking at how to best tackle what we might call the IoT “factory” edge with managed gateway appliances (and/or their lightweight Liota agent). VMware clearly wants to centrally manage not only the “center” of IT infrastructure (which is now hybridizing to multi-cloud), but also mobile devices (with AirWatch, et.al.), and then expanding outwards again to at least the industrial IoT edge.

5. For dynamic “bare-metal” provisioning, I saw really interesting “composable infrastructure” from Liqid based on a smart stack of software driving PCIe switches to dynamically “software-define” physical servers carving them out of racked pools of CPU boards, GPU’s, memory cards, and disks. If the target O/S supports it, this can even dynamically add/subtract physical resources from a running operating system. This is the exact opposite approach to hypervisor virtualization when it comes to sharing a pool of physical resources. There will no doubt be a lot of future discussion and exploration of use cases, and validation of relative costs and actual benefits for each.

Finally, wanted to give a shout out to a few more folks we talked with (or at least ran into) at the show – Pivot3, Dell EMC HCI/VxRack and Rail folks, Scale, Logic Monitor, Datrium, HPE, Sios, Tech Target, 1105 Media, HDS, Tintri, Blue Medora, Kingston, Cloud Velox, Kaminario, Zerto and everybody else we saw at the Food Court and Starbucks too!  Thanks for hanging out in the desert with us!

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