Being a long time VMworld attendee, I have learned with experience that Break Out sessions, although being of incredible educational value, can cannibalize all your available time if prioritized over other VMworld activities. Also, most if not all of the sessions are recorded and made available after VMworld for easy fruition from the comfort of your couch. For this reason I set a personal rule not to attend more than two sessions a day. I broke this rule this year and for one reason: VMware Cloud on AWS.
Simply put, after last year’s announcement I decided to become more fluent on AWS and started studying for the Solutions Architect Associate exam. Therefore, now that VMC on AWS is finally GA, I had enough technical background to enjoy and make best use of these sessions. I followed four AWS related sessions, mostly deep dives on various architectural topics. The two most interesting ones were “VMware Cloud on AWS: A Technical Deep Dive” with Frank Denneman and Ray Budavari and “AWS Native Services Integration with VMware Cloud on AWS: Technical Deep Dive” with AWS architects Paul Bockelman and Ian Massingham. My conclusion is that we are still at beginning of a journey, the service is currently in its infancy and available only in a very few regions in the USA, coming with some architectural and features limitations. For instance as of today customers can set up only one cluster that contains both Management and Workload VMs, segregated in two Resource Pools; these clusters can span from a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 16 hosts. The hosts are based on an Amazon design, therefore there are some limitations based on their unusual HW configuration: hosts come with one single 25 Gbps NIC (logically partitionable into multiple uplinks, but definitely a concern for availability) and, although their disks are all NMVe ones, as of today Deduplication and Compression are not yet available (while encryption is done at individual disk level with keys managed by AWS). The other major limitation is that the cluster lives in one AZ at the time, so in this initial stage Stretched Clusters are not supported. Of course these are all temporary limitations and feature parity with the on-prem implementations should be reached in a reasonable time, this is what roadmaps are for: speakers made it very clear that these are features and limitation at “initial availability” stage
The other main consideration is that VMC on AWS plays well with Native AWS services… perhaps even too well. The VMware VPC can dialogue with an AWS one and it will be possible to create complex architectures mixing native VMware workloads with native AWS services. The risk here is that once migrated to AWS, customers might get “too used” to the ease of painting on the AWS canvas and might tend to lean towards it a bit too much… But I am sure that VMware had done their considerations and careful analysis before establishing this partnership: us, as customers are the ones who will mostly benefit from this match made in Heaven.
In addition to AWS related sessions I attended a couple on more traditional topics; the one I enjoyed more (my overall favorite of this VMworld edition) was Rebecca Fitzhugh’s “Upgrading to vSphere 6.5 the VCDX Way”. This session was all about methodology and the correct approach in dealing with a design: Rebecca is an extremely experienced and knowledgeable architect, capable of explaining complex topics in a simple way and I am sure that most of the session attendees had learned something very useful from her. I, personally, left this session with the awareness of having matured during my career a good understanding and mastering of the design methodology. Perhaps at some point I should find some courage and embark in the perilous path to the VCDX certification!
Let’s talk about the Solutions Exchange now. The expo area was very lively, VMware’s booth was bigger than usual and the VMUG one was conveniently placed just in front of it: thank you VMware for the support and consideration! The biggest booths were the ones of HPE, Trend Micro, Veeam, Dell EMC, Rubrik (where a Mercedes F1 car was a real magnet for visitors), HDS, Intel, Tintri, NetApp. Of course there were plenty of other booths from smaller or emerging vendors, all worth to be visited.
But what caught my eye was the presence of the AWS booth: not only Amazon was a major topic for General and Break Out Session, but its presence at the entrance of the Expo Area clearly highlighted the changes the industry is going through.
A bit hidden in the second row, another booth caught my attention, the Google Cloud one. What has been a low key appearance this year, might become a more prominent one in 2018 when Google’s alliance with VMware and Pivotal will have produced its fruits. This year I made some effort to visit as many booths as possible, not for scoring swag but to collect info for coming blogposts: I visited and spoke to Runecast, Cohesity, Turbonomic, Rubrik, Pure Storage, StorMagic and Stratoscale. I have collected some good material for more posts in the coming weeks.
Enough about this, now lets’ talk about the real value of VMworld: the Community!