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Virtualization experts share their VMworld 2017 US predictions

Based on VMware's session catalog, VMware on AWS is set to be the star of VMworld 2017, but we could be in for a few surprises. Our Advisory Board shares its thoughts.

Customers and vendors alike usually eagerly anticipate VMware's annual VMworld conference and for good reason: At last year's U.S. conference, VMware unveiled its Cross-Cloud Architecture and Cloud Foundation platform, released updates to Workstation and Fusion and made significant improvements to its Integrated Containers and Integrated OpenStack offerings.

Much of the buzz surrounding this year's conference pertains to the potential fruits of VMware's partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which makes sense since VMware's clearly set its sights on hybrid cloud. There's also been a rumor of upgrades to NSX and vSAN and potentially a new version of vSphere, but details remain hard to pin down. Some even suspect that VMworld 2017 could be a more staid affair than previous years without any major announcements.

With just days to go before VMworld 2017, we asked our team of experts where they think VMware's focus lies, what they predict might happen and what news will come out of the conference.

Rob Bastiaansen, independent trainer and consultant

In just a few days, I'll attend my 14th VMworld conference, and each year, I'm amazed by how VMware is able to find new areas to expand its software portfolio. Over the past few years, VMware's shifted its focus to cloud offerings. At last year's U.S. conference, the company announced a partnership with AWS and a new cross-cloud management platform. I expect we'll hear more about those developments and their direction for the future at VMworld 2017. It'll also be interesting to see how VMware's involvement in the internet of things space has evolved since VMworld 2016.

Although VMware has its sights set on the future, it hasn't forgotten its original customer base, and there appear to be a good number of sessions dedicated to the traditional data center. I especially look forward to seeing what's new with vSphere, Horizon and the vRealize product suite. VMware seemed to take a major step forward with the release of vSphere 6.5, but having spoken to many administrators, this release left much to be desired. The new HTML5 Client replaced the C# Client in vSphere 6.5, but it lacks the functionality of its predecessor. Likewise, the updated vCenter Appliance falls short of expectations, as it doesn't provide high availability for the Platform Services Controller. It'll be interesting to see whether VMware makes an effort to improve the tools customers use on a daily basis.

Stuart Burns, virtualization and Linux expert

There are a few obvious things to expect from VMworld 2017. First, the VMware on AWS tool set will likely go to general release. I also suspect there will be a big push to clarify what exactly the VMware on AWS offering is, since many people still seem confused by that concept. At the same time, I hope we'll see some basic support for other clouds, which would solidify VMware as the glue between different cloud providers that allows for migration among clouds. However, I'd wager there's only a 50/50 chance of that happening.

In addition to the VMware on AWS stack, I'm sure there will be a lot of talk about making inroads to the hybrid cloud. VMware might even make product announcements or releases related to that idea. The whole vSphere stack on AWS uses the same interface that VMware administrators currently use. It would be remiss of VMware not to play this to its advantage and try to convince users to take the first steps to the hybrid cloud with a VMware security net to back them up.

There will, of course, be some updates to NSX and vSAN technologies. These technologies -- NSX, in particular -- have been massive sellers, and VMware has dedicated a significant amount of research and development to them as a result. To my knowledge, no other company currently offers anything comparable to NSX.

Based on conversation with VMware salespeople, I believe VMworld 2017 will feature a renewed push on virtual desktop infrastructure and digital workspaces, which would essentially be a continuation of last year's ultramobile theme.

Long story short, it looks like VMware will be doubling down on its cloud and mobile offerings; I don't expect to see anything new for on-premises stacks.

Brien Posey, Microsoft MVP

It's impossible to predict with any certainty what types of announcements VMware will make at its annual VMworld conference; I don't have any inside information about what VMware has in store for attendees, nor have there been any leaks so far as I know. Even so, there are a few clues as to what we might expect.

The VMworld agenda lists the titles of VMware's various keynotes. The keynote titles include:

  • Delivering New User Experiences with Digital Workspaces
  • Transforming Networking and Security for the Digital Era
  • Simplifying and Accelerating Your Multi-Cloud Strategy
  • Transforming the Data Center to Deliver Any Application on Any Platform

From looking at this list, we can get a sense of VMware's current priorities. One of the keynotes deals with security, which doesn't come as much of a shock. Given the high-profile security breaches and ransomware infections of the last year, combined with Microsoft's emphasis on security in the latest version of Hyper-V, VMware had to focus on security. As such, I expect to hear some security-related announcements.

Two of the other keynotes deal with the digital workspace and with device-agnostic application delivery. These two topics go hand in hand, which makes it clear that VMware has mobility on the brain. I wouldn't be surprised to see announcements pertaining to new mobile management utilities, client portals and tools to make multicloud management easier.

There are two other things that VMware may choose to talk about that can't be gleaned from the conference agenda. First, there have been some hints that VMware may look to explore nontraditional markets. I wouldn't be surprised to hear VMware announce products or services specifically targeted toward vertical industries, such as healthcare or education.

I also anticipate that VMware will do a bit more with its strategic partnership with IBM. Artificial intelligence (AI) has been the single largest tech trend over the past year. IBM has been working on AI software that allows you to distribute AI workloads across multiple servers, which exponentially increases the computing power available to those workloads. Given the recent popularity of AI and VMware's partnership with IBM, I almost expect VMware to make some sort of AI-related announcement. For instance, VMware could conceivably announce that it intends to release an offering that preemptively balances workloads based on demand predictions made by a cloud-based AI engine.

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