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VMworld 2016 conference coverage

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From NSX to VSAN, the biggest announcements at VMworld 2016 US

Although VMware did not unveil an updated version of its popular vSphere product at this year's VMworld U.S., it had other exciting updates and new products to offer.

Another VMworld U.S. has come and gone with a few new products in the books. VMware noticeably did not release a new or updated version of its flagship virtualization platform, vSphere. VMware's core virtualization product is very mature and already comes with a lot of built-in features, but it's always nice to see the latest version tricked out with a few enhancements.

Fortunately, VMworld E.U. is just around the corner, so there's still a chance for a new version of vSphere, though customers shouldn't hold their breath. Even if VMware releases a new or updated version at VMworld E.U., there likely won't be many significant changes made to the product -- vSphere already offers solid performance. As they say, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.

VMware continued to showcase both NSX and VSAN at this year's VMworld U.S. NSX made a pretty big splash a few years ago and we're now continuing to see the ramp up in adoption and stability. VMworld U.S. was a chance to see a bit more of the Cisco "we are now friends with NSX" show, which everyone knew would happen at some point in the future. Although they aren't best friends yet, VMworld U.S. did show that there is some serious promise on this front, which is good news for customers.

VSAN has continued its push and growth as it has matured. In March 2016, VMware introduced two new key VSAN features -- deduplication and compression -- making it a very appealing and competitive prospect for data center storage environments. VMworld U.S. showcased these features to cement these technologies as corner stones of the modern data center.

The Cloud Foundation platform has the ability to incorporate a wide range of VMware technologies, including the vRealize Suite, VMware vSphere Integrated Containers and VMware Integrated OpenStack.

VMware introduced NSX and VSAN along with SDDC Manager and vSphere as the core elements of the company's new Cloud Foundation platform. This collection of products can help an organization reach the software-defined data center and even extend its reach with a hybrid cloud. This offering is a software stack architecture only. This means you can use your own preferred hardware vendor to reach a true software-defined data center. However, on the flip side, that also means you have to use third-party hardware vendors and not a turn-key system such as Nutanix or VCE. Depending on your view, this can be a positive or a negative.

The Cloud Foundation platform has the ability to incorporate a wide range of VMware technologies, including the vRealize Suite, VMware vSphere Integrated Containers and VMware Integrated OpenStack.

This puts VMware in a difficult position. The company has long excelled at producing innovative products, now it's a question of bringing them all together. The VMware ecosystem has a lot of moving parts, so ensuring everything is on the same compatibility level can be a challenge. So, while many of the core pieces under the Cloud Foundation platform are very solid, they are still just pieces, and bringing them together without true consolidation and packaging could be a problem for the customer.

While we did not see a core product refresh, we did see an upgrade cycle with VMware's desktop products, Workstation and Fusion, bringing more support for Windows 10. VMware also improved its Integrated Container release by adding more management, access control and polices, which should help the DevOps audience.

VMware also refreshed Integrated OpenStack, with a special focus on ease of deployment and infrastructure costs. Though these are certainly welcome updates, the real star of the show was VMware Cross-Cloud Architecture. Cross-Cloud Architecture is a big deal for a number of reasons, not all of them technical. Companies today have resources on internal clouds, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure and many others for various reasons. Some are technical in nature, while others are cost or feature-driven. In any case, this has led to a fractured management model for managing cloud resources.

Cross-Cloud Architecture aims to bring all of the clouds -- both public and private -- under a single management pane. This will provide insight into usage, costs, security and networking. In addition, this will allow the administrator to automate, manage and seamlessly work with applications between on-premises and off-premises clouds from a variety of vendors, including non-VMware-based clouds.

Cross-Cloud Architecture builds on VMware's preexisting cloud efforts -- including the partner-driven vCloud Air Network -- while highlighting an important element of the company's cloud strategy. VMware was never destined to be a large cloud provider; it just wouldn't make sense for a software company to attempt to keep pace with the likes of Azure or AWS. Instead, VMware is looking beyond the hypervisor and local management and into what companies need in today's cloud environment with offerings like KVM and OpenStack.

The Cross-Cloud Service is what IT organizations are looking for even if they haven't realized yet that they need it.

While Cross-Cloud Architecture fills in some major gaps, nothing at VMworld U.S. was a true game changer. Based on the maturity of VMware products and their surrounding ecosystem, most of the company's announcements are evolutionary advancements rather than revolutionary ones.

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This was last published in October 2016

Conference Coverage

VMworld 2016 conference coverage

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