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What to expect in the next 10 years of VMworld's future

The future looks bright for VMworld. Experts Brian Kirsch, Alastair Cooke and Rob Bastiaansen discuss what they hope to see from the VMware conference over the next decade.

Since 2004, VMworld has been one of the largest virtualization conferences in the world. At VMworld 2019, attendees can expect to see sessions on cloud computing, networking and security, the evolution of the digital workspace and emerging trends in IT business, as well as speakers such as VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn. Many want to see news about VMware Cloud on AWS, NSX and potential Kubernetes integration or collaboration, and hope for increased accessibility.

Over the course of the next 10 years, VMworld is expected to grow and change as much as it has over the past 15. Experts predict VMworld will represent more companies apart from VMware and will continue to bring with it exciting innovations.

Brian Kirsch, IT architect

VMworld has always been a place to find the latest and greatest data center technology. However, as more of the data center moves to the cloud, you might wonder about the future of VMworld.

VMware Cloud on AWS paved the way for cloud vendors at VMworld. However, a large commercial and SMB contingent can't adopt the cloud, and that contingent might make up the future audience for VMworld. These companies require VMware's enterprise technology, and they must know about key products such as vSAN and NSX to survive and thrive.

Many nonenterprise customers attend events such as VMworld to explore, learn and connect with new technologies and people. VMworld might become a mix of smaller companies hoping to make that next technological step and large enterprises looking to refine or update the technology they already have.

The real challenge with VMworld's future is maintaining the conference's accessibility. The move back to San Francisco led to a steep increase in travel costs for many attendees, which affects attendance numbers. Although the location is ideal for VMware -- since VMware is based out of nearby Palo Alto, Calif. -- past venues such as Las Vegas were more accessible to larger numbers of travelers with smaller budgets. The location helps determine the audience, which drives the adoption of exhibited products.

The question is this: Will VMware become exclusive to the enterprise market, or will it also appeal to the commercial and SMB?

Alastair Cooke, virtualization expert

You can credit much of VMware's historic growth to vSphere. VMware vSphere enables substantial on-premises infrastructure cost savings, but doesn't require changes to the OSes and applications its customers rely on. An application that previously ran on a physical server doesn't behave any differently running on a VM alongside a dozen other VMs on one physical server. At first, the cost savings from consolidation were enough. After using vSphere, many customers saw a business benefit in the agility that virtualization enables.

However, since 2014, public cloud platforms have enabled greater agility than on-premises platforms, presenting a challenge to vSphere. AWS alone has dozens of services that enable application development with fewer lines of application code, which means less developer time. In the next decade, VMware must enable customers to gain as many public cloud benefits as possible, without requiring wholesale application redevelopment.

Although the group of elite VMworld alumni becomes smaller each year -- now down to about 20 VMware enthusiasts -- VMworld itself has grown year over year.
Rob BastiaansenVMware trainer and consultant

VMware is already on this path. The vendor helped create VMware Cloud on AWS, which runs a vSphere cluster inside AWS. This enables customers' unmodified legacy applications to run right next to new applications they develop on AWS offerings. VMware will likely develop vSphere to run inside most public clouds over the next year or two. VMware has also focused on NSX, which helps join together on-premises applications and public cloud-based applications.

VMware might make a Kubernetes play -- and its work with Pivotal makes that likely -- but it must also address data issues. As data volumes increase faster than network link speeds, moving data becomes a big, unsolved problem for application mobility. Data mobility already limits the migration of on-premises applications to VMware Cloud on AWS and prevents applications from moving between different public cloud platforms. If VMware were to release a product to move data as freely as vSphere moves application execution sometime in the next 10 years, that would make for an important VMworld announcement.

Rob Bastiaansen, VMware trainer and consultant

Although the group of elite VMworld alumni becomes smaller each year -- now down to about 20 VMware enthusiasts -- VMworld itself has grown year over year. Hopefully, the event's growth has plateaued; it's already very busy, and the remodeled Moscone Center in San Francisco expects to hold around 20,000 attendees in 2019.

VMworld has stabilized in terms of both format and number of attendees. In recent years, the conference added hands-on labs, which hopefully continue to grow in popularity.

In addition, VMworld hosts a Thursday keynote with inspirational speakers from non-IT fields, such as Malala Yousafzai in 2018. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger also speaks every year at VMworld.

In VMworld's future, it might suit the conference to move some of its less technical content into different events to make room for even more technical content and perhaps shrink the crowd. Alternatively, it could seek a larger venue, like the Las Vegas venue of 2018, to make it accessible to all attendees.

Hopefully, VMworld begins to offer more sessions presented by engineers, rather than product managers. Attendees love to hear from their peers.

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