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VMware focuses on 'any cloud, any time' at VMworld 2016 Europe

VMware disclosed plans to move beyond on premises, continued focus on the cloud and its partner program at VMworld 2016 Europe.

Many longtime vSphere administrators might be wondering what's happening to VMware in the world of cloud, especially with the latest partnership with Amazon and other vendors nipping at its heels. I got the chance to sit down with some of VMware's top visionaries at VMworld 2016 Europe to discuss how the company is bringing the whole virtualization platform to new heights and taking the fight to the other vendors. The introduction of vSphere 6.5 -- along with VSAN 6.5, Site Recovery Manager 6.5 and Virtual Volumes 2.0 -- can help take VMware to the next level.

Out with the old, in with the cloud

Before we dig in, let's make one thing absolutely clear: On-premises software in the old style of vCenter and a couple clusters sitting in isolation is on notice. Such a configuration does not provide the kind of tool set required by today's self-provisioning and automated world in which everything must be available at a moment's notice.

Private clouds and on-premises clouds will eventually be one in the same. On premises is about having that same agility and automation, but keeping it local -- nothing more, nothing less. There will be advances in vSphere, but don't expect any to be on-premises-centric features, as today's focus is on the public and private cloud.

Watching the keynote at VMworld 2016 Europe, it became immediately apparent that VMware is rapidly evolving beyond the hypervisor. VMware is agnostic about what an administrator runs and where he runs it, positioning the company to be the Switzerland of cloud providers and management.

In short, the ethos could be summed by the conference slogan of "any cloud, any time," with the familiarity of vSphere hiding the complexities of the cloud from the administrator. Administrators no longer have to grapple with different cloud providers' interfaces to provision virtual resources.

VMware is all about choice -- vSphere 6.5, released at VMworld 2016 Europe, speaks all major dialects of cloud, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure and several other vendors.

On-premises software in the old style of vCenter and a couple clusters sitting in isolation is on notice.

What a lot of people moving to AWS fail to realize is that although the base cost may be appealing, it's missing a great deal of functionality. For example, if you enable High Availability in vCenter and a host were to fail, it would simply restart on another host; AWS out of the box has no such feature. This is just one issue with using AWS. There are ways around such problems, but they come at an additional cost.

The strength of VMware's partnerships

I spoke with David Zolnier, senior product marketing manager at VMware, who said that one thing that sets VMware apart from its competitors is the strength of its VMware Partner Network. The company has a long-term strategic plan to coexist with its partners. Zolnier described the network as a "kinder ecosystem and better investment. It's a more friendly habitat with long-term positive relationships."

To date, Microsoft's relationship with its partners has been a little more acrimonious, with Microsoft essentially telling partners to create their own IP to sell while Microsoft gets the lion's share of the licensing revenue for any partner-oriented deal. Margins on deals for Microsoft partners have often been described as razor thin to nonexistent. In essence, VMware partners make more per deal per dollar than equivalent Microsoft partners.

Having such a vast array of products makes it more difficult for customers and partners alike to acquire a deeper knowledge of VMware's full scope of products, especially in a competitive situation. Zolnier said that VMware is working hard to resolve this problem.

VMware's newest partnership with AWS will be something to keep an eye on as well.

Looking to the future at VMworld 2016 Europe

VMware isn't just competing on price, it's competing on functionality. The per socket per VM provisioning cost that is often touted as the big issue is only part of a larger picture.

VMware has some interesting technologies lined up that are due to mature over the next few years, including AirWatch. Mobile phones, tablets and such are at saturation point, but VMware has mobile management facilities that far outclass anything other competitors have and the power to massively scale.

AirWatch provides a mobile device management offering that works with not only all the major phone manufacturers, but also just about any internet of things device a company could require. Innovative markets such as this put VMware ahead of the pack in terms of new market and, in Zolnier's own words, "top of the quadrant" in Gartner's famous quadrant matrix.

VMware also has customer loyalty in spades. VMware has experienced growing revenue by all metrics year over year. Average customer loyalty for VMware is over 10 years, which is unheard of. VMware's platform has become the standard in virtualization circles.

NSX is the future

Out of all of VMware's products, the real jewel in its crown is NSX. NSX is unique, providing many firsts in terms of security, including microsegmentation at the VM level that follows the VM as it moves. This essentially glues the rules to the VM. NSX also simplifies management and makes it easy to understand for admins. No other company out there has a product on offer like NSX.

This dovetails extremely well with VMware's renewed focus on security. Zolnier mentioned that most of the deals he gets involved begin with "the security conversation."

Functions like this take VMware from merely one of several hypervisor/cloud vendors to a leader in the virtualization and cloud space. VMware is playing it cool and creating new markets around its extensive product range.

VSphere administrators have two takeaways from VMworld 2016 Europe: First, VMware as a company is expanding its offerings across all platforms, not just the hypervisor. Second, the VMware administrator also needs to adapt and evolve. Administrators need to retool to the new reality that virtualization is everything, everywhere. The future is managed mobile everything, the future is VMware.

Next Steps

The best of the best at VMworld 2016 Europe

VMware NSX puts emphasis on security

VMware looks to the cloud with Cross Cloud Service

This was last published in November 2016

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