The two VMworld 2017 editions (USA and Europe) are traditionally a couple of months away from each other; this always guaranteed staggered announcements and two events with distinct identity and purpose. Not this year, since the two events were held only a copule of weeks away from each other: this caused the audience to have understandably reduced expectations from the General Sessions, which have been perceived as a replay of what had been showcased in Las Vegas.
Although most of the GS content was a word-by-word re-run of the Vegas ones, there has been notable exceptions: Alan Renouf (the Godfather of PowerCLI) joined Pat Gelsinger on stage to demo an amazing Proof Of Concept VR interface to vSphere where VMs could be vMotioned across hosts and to the Public Cloud. Alan stressed that this was no more than a pet project of him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this evolves from gimmick to production-ready state in the span of just a few years! Now that would be an interesting way to run operations in year 2020!
Besides this there has been only a couple new product announcements (more on this later) and different partner and customer testimonials than those appeared on stage in Vegas. One noticeable appearance was that of a Kenyan Service Provider presenting their VMware-powered solution that helps farmers in East Africa. This was a first and a sign of the times.
Another important consideration was on the overall “spirit” of both General Sessions: this time Techies like myself have been a bit disappointed because the whole thing (including the usually more technical Day 2 session) were less about hands-on topics and more about strategy and vision. This time VMware did not want to impress engineers and architects but rather decision makers: there was basically no mention of VMware Core Technologies but the focus was entirely on accrediting VMware as the (only) Software Company capable of driving and delivering the Digital Transformation of businesses of any size. This might seem like a buzzword, but this is indeed the era of 100% digital enterprises where every single business component must be connected to each other to guarantee agility and deliverability of services to customers. A business cannot just walk, it must run to win the race and VMware wants to provide all the tools required to compete, powering the whole value chain from the Data Center across Public Clouds and up to the Edge, where billions of IoT devices act as one swarm of active elements of the Global Business.
Techies have been probably disappointed by the apparent lack of news, but once the dust had settled, there was a lot indeed to digest. First and foremost, VMware confirmed once again that, according to its vision, the future is Multi Cloud or, better worded, Any Cloud. VMware wants to have a presence and a role with every major Public Cloud Provider: VMware Cloud on AWS went finally GA after last year’s shocking announcement and you could feel AWS’s presence in terms of featured sessions and Solutions Exchange visibility (more in the next post of this series), but that was only the tip of the iceberg. VMware has announced alliances with major CSPs (IBM, Virtustream, OVH, Rackspace etc) and technical solutions aimed at integrating VMware Private Clouds with any of those, including – hear hear – Azure (by extending Private Networks to the MS Cloud through NSX-T)!
The first exclusive announcement at VMworld Europe was HCX, a set of technologies aimed at enabling Cloud Migration, Application Mobility and Infrastructure Hybridity, at the moment of writing initially available through partnerships with IBM and OVH. The main purpose of HCX, a key component of VMware Cloud Services, is to facilitate “secure, seamless interoperability and hybridity between any VMware vSphere-based clouds, enabling large-scale migration to modern clouds/datacenters, and application mobility, with no application downtime”. In a nutshell, HCX is an interconnection technology that will allow easy mobility of applications and workloads across private VMware-powered DCs and Public VMware Partner Clouds. More can be learned from the official press release and in the HCX micro-site.
I mentioned briefly Cloud Services, which is the Swiss Army Knife of VMware’s Multi Cloud strategy, a plethora of tools capable of gluing together multiple infrastructures and providing at the same time all the tools required to govern them and ensure security compliance and application performance assurance. Cloud Services (as shown in the entertaining “Elastic Sky Pizza” fictional use case) is a collection of individual tools designed to address the many different needs of a Digital Enterprise. A couple of them are worth highlighting (both already announced in Vegas): AppDefense and Wavefront. The first is an application-centric security solution aimed at complementing the increased security levels already delivered by NSX: an application “legitimate” behavior is dynamically fingerprinted and baselined, deviations are detected and if they represent a security risk, action is taken. Wavefront, on the other hand, is for Applications what Network Insight is for networks: a tool capable of bringing clarity and insight into the chaos and noise of the applications jungle. Wavefront can dissect any complex application into its components and ensure that the desired performance is always attained, isolating bottlenecks and allowing developers and infrastructure engineers to fix issues before they become a revenue loss. How many times us, the infrastructure engineers, have been asked by devs to fix application performance issues by adding more vCPUs, RAM or Nodes? Well, Wavefront is the tool we were waiting for as it will clear identify performance and availability bottlenecks, ensuring that applications are running in their desired state and that the infrastructure resources are efficiently allocated.
But VMware does not extend to the Public Cloud only, it brings Google Cloud to VMware Private DCs, with the help of Pivotal Container Services, aka PKS. VMware PKS, developed in collaboration with Pivotal and Google Cloud, is “a purpose-built product to operationalize Kubernetes for enterprise and service provider environments”. In a nutshell, PKS will allow to develop, deploy and operationalize Kubernetes-orchestrated containerized apps in a private environment with seamless integration with the native Google Cloud Environment. A lot of words for something that, put simply, means something like: run your Cloud Native Apps on premises like they are on Google Cloud! While still on the CNA topic, VMware announced the release of VMware Integrated Containers 1.2, the latest version of their Docker compatible, fully vSphere integrated Container platform. During Day 2, Pat Gelsinger and Sanjay Poonen answered to some questions from the public, including one from yours truly who appropriately asked about the fate of VIC: not only VIC is alive and kicking, but they kind of hinted that PKS builds on the ashes of Photon Platform. In general they assured that VMware is fully committed to CNAs and they want to deliver a platform that is Developer Ready while at the same time being Enterprise Robust.
VMware Integrated OpenStack also got some love as it was briefly mentioned in relation to Telcos and NFV applications.
But don’t fear, fellow infrastructure geeks, there was something for us as well, with some spotlight reserved to Cloud Foundation, the final destination of a work started many years ago with EVO:Rail. Cloud Foundation brings together vSphere, VSAN and NSX in a simple to deploy and simple to maintain package, conceived to allow enterprises to deploy a state of the art SDDC infrastructure with just a few clicks. The magic is done by an additional software layer, the SDDC Manager that relieves systems engineers from the burden of keeping updated and compliant virtual infrastructures. It is clear (and it will be more evident with vSphere 7) that VMware is making efforts to simplify the management layer by reducing the number of components on one side (just think of the 6.5 VCSA that includes Update Manager) and by introducing automation in Day 2 maintenance of the management stack. The aim, which I feel we are getting closer and closer at hitting, is enabling “one click deploy and maintenance” of virtual infrastructures of any size. The current implementation of Cloud Foundation is a great first step in that direction.
Enough with announcements, let’s move to the next post in the series and discuss about sessions and exhibitors.