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"Peak VMware" leads to decrease in demand for VMware skills

The decline in vSphere revenue has many VMware specialists re-evaluating their future and turning their attention to up-and-coming technologies.

Due to a significant decrease in revenue from vSphere software licensing, it appears as though VMware has peaked,...

and is now in a state of decline.

Since the majority of VMware products rely on vSphere as an underlayer, it's unlikely that the company's other offerings will be able to make up the difference. If you've spent the past few years specializing in and developing VMware skills, it's probably a good idea to start re-evaluating your future. Although the immediate forecast for VMware is still good, you're better off planning ahead so that VMware's decline doesn't affect your prospects.   

Staying relevant in IT

One of the realities of enterprise IT is that technology has a long tail. This means that platforms deployed within the past few years will continue to be used for years to come, even if the technology itself becomes outdated. This is good news for those with vSphere expertise because a vSphere platform that was recently deployed will likely remain in use for at least the next few years, and may be replaced with another vSphere deployment when the time comes.

There are even organizations that have yet to make the transition to virtualization and that will require the assistance of a vSphere expert. Although the technology long tail prevents these valuable VMware skills from becoming immediately redundant, it does mean that the demand for these skills and the pay rates offered for them will decrease over time. Riding the long tail of VMware isn't viable for a 20-year career in IT, but the reduction of demand for VMware skills will not happen overnight. 

Every so often, IT experiences a mass extinction event. The last extinction of note occurred 16 years ago when many IT systems were retired and replaced prior to Y2K. Many have speculated that the next event of this magnitude will likely be the Unix 2038 date bug. In the event that this comes to pass, VMware skills will be in high demand with commensurate compensation, not unlike the resurgence in high-paying Common Business Oriented Language jobs prior to Y2K. But 2038 is still years away, and you'll need to develop new skill sets to remain at the front of the IT charge. 

Learning to embrace the cloud

One of the driving forces behind the halt in vSphere growth is the migration of workloads to the cloud. Providers like Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure are building new applications on top of cloud services and existing applications are being migrated to these same platforms. If you're looking to take your career in a new direction, cloud services may be the way to go.

Both Microsoft and Amazon have training and certification programs to help develop and prove new skills. Now is a good time to look around your organization and identify which public cloud services your organization is likely to adopt or has already adopted to get a sense of which skills you should acquire. It will be far easier to get support for learning about the platforms your organization has chosen.

I recently spoke to an IT manager at a medium-sized organization in the process of migrating from on-premises infrastructure to Azure. He mentioned having difficulties with his existing senior engineer, who has yet to embrace the move to Azure and is instead planning for new on-premises infrastructure. As a result, the manager is looking for a new engineer who is focused on cloud. Unless his existing senior engineer is willing to get with the "cloud first" program, he has a limited time remaining with the company.

Improving your VMware strategy

Not every application will migrate to the public cloud. There are still compliance and cost reasons for keeping some applications on premises, which bodes well for vSphere experts. Keeping applications on premises gives organizations incentive to keep using VMware platforms and to retain VMware experts on staff. One way to protect the use of your on-premises VMware infrastructure is to make it easier to use. Part of the attraction of public cloud is the ease of consumption and consistency of use. There are a number of ways you can make your existing environment a good choice for new workloads, including introducing standardization and automation, delivering well-defined services, and making it easy to deploy new VMs.

After years of being the must-have technology, VMware's reign is coming to an end. Unless the company can reinvent itself, we've likely reached peak VMware. For most VMware specialists, this means it's time to focus on expanding their abilities in addition to their pre-existing VMware skills. In the interest of this, look around your organization to identify areas in which you can obtain new skills. Remember that a constantly evolving skill set is more valuable than the knowledge of one technology. IT is always changing, and you must change with it.

Next Steps

VMware embraces hybrid cloud as revenues dip

Where did VMware get its start?

VMware NSX sales offer hope for the future

This was last published in May 2016

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With VMware on the decline, what do you think will be the next big technology?
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Full disclosure: I manage a sales team for VMW. Yes, the rate of new hypervisor sales has been declining. But the cloud management platform is a $1.5B business unit by itself. vSphere administrators are embracing the power of Operations Mgmt, Automation and Business Mgmt to keep themselves relevant to the needs of the business. While some development workloads are moving to AWS and Azure, less than 10% of Enterprise workloads live in the Public Cloud. Both Gartner and Forrester believe that number will increase to only 25% by 2030. VMware's strategy is to help IT practitioners turn their private datacenters into AWS and Google-like cloud providers. By extending the pillars of virtualization beyond the compute layer to the storage, security and network infrastructure in datacenters today, VMware enables enterprise companies to deliver those services through software and automation rather than hardware and manual process. 
That value proposition will propel VMware's growth well beyond the next few years. 
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What this article fails to recognize is that there is not simply a choice of 'on premise' or a move to the MegaClouds.

VMware has an approach for those organizations looking to move their services into the Cloud that increasingly brokers the day 2 operations and SLA adherence in a hybrid and multi-cloud world that many savvy customers are looking for.

The Megaclouds are great for 'born in the cloud' type apps and some re-architected legacy apps, but that does not necessarily speak to the need to maintain and administer those apps in the Mega Clouds, a less easy task, leading many companies to outsource operations to Service Providers, negotiating a single management contract with those providers for their on premise, hosted or hybrid environments as well as portions of their estates that live in the MegaClouds.

The largest vendor ecosystem for all clouds that are not the Mega Clouds is one that leverages VMware solutions, 4000 plus providers worldwide.

There remains a huge need for VMware skills and now days VMware skills have gone beyond capability with just vSphere to needing an appreciation for OpenStack with VMware VIO, virtualised networking with NSX and DevOps and Application lifecycle management with Code stream and the vRealize Suite.

A focus on the decline of vSphere, quite frankly misses the point of VMware and VMware skills ongoing relevance in the fast changing IT sector
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