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Keynotes, new tech and Tweetups at VMworld 2009

VMworld 2009 offered the releases of VMware Go and vCloud Express; news on Virtual Profiles for VMware VIew; Teradici's PC-over-IP; long-distance VMotion; I/O Distributed Resource Scheduler; and vCenter ConfigControl. It also provided opportunities for professional networking at vendor-hosted dinners and parties.

Virtualization Viewpoints is a semi-monthly column that discusses current VMware- and virtualization-related trends, news and topics. Here we offer opinions and viewpoints on the competitive, quickly growing and ever-changing virtualization industry with a focus on VMware, the current virtualization market leader, which is in an ongoing battle to remain on top and distance itself from its competitors.

VMworld 2009 is over, and as usual, there was so much to do that I am still trying to catch my breath. In this edition of Virtualization Viewpoints, I wanted to recap my experiences so that those who didn't attend can get a feel for what attending the show is really like.

VMworld is known for its many sessions and hands-on labs, but it also offers a huge opportunity for networking with other IT professionals, attending vendor-hosted parties and obtaining new information from VMware on what's ahead. The highlight for me is always networking -- catching up with old friends, making new acquaintances and meeting peope with whom I had previously conversed only via phone or Internet. The technology highlights this year include VMware Go and vCloud Express, updates to the VMware View product and Teradici's PC-over-IP product.

Getting there
My journey to San Francisco started in Denver on the Friday before VMworld. I decided to drive so I could visit my parents on the way in Phoenix and drop my kids off to visit while I was at the show. I did the drive in three stages, Denver to Albuquerque (450 miles), Albuquerque to Phoenix (450 miles) and Phoenix to San Francisco (750 miles) for a total of about 1,700 miles.

The trip was mostly uneventful except for a flat tire at 5:00 a.m. just after crossing the border from Arizona into California. Driving through California there was not much to see except for the huge wind turbine farms near Palm Springs and at the Altamont Pass.

I arrived in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon. After checking in at the hotel, I met up with Jason Boche,a fellow vExpert and the blogger behind Boche.net; David Davis, a fellow TechTarget contributor and blogger at HappyRouter.com; and Mike Foley, technology marketing manager at RSA, for some food and drinks.

Afterwards, we hit the Thirsty Bear for a big pre-VMworld party hosted by Theron Conrey, the blogger behind Conrey.org and manager of virtualization operations at MMC. Here I was able to meet up with some old acquaintances such as Tom Howarth, who blogs at PlanetVM and virtualization architect at HP; Scott Lowe, the blogger behind blog.scottlowe.org; Steve Beaver, a blogger at Virtual Black Hole for TripWire; Jase McCarty, the blogger of Jase's Place; and Edward Haletky, the blogger behind Blue Gears. In addition, I met some people in person for the first time including Doug Hazelman, director of the global system engineers group at Veeam Software; Duncan Epping, senior consultant at VMware and the blogger behind Yellow Bricks; Joep Piscaer of VirtualLifestyle.nl; and Gabe van Zanten of Gabe's Virtual World. It was great to socialize with everyone as we prepared for the start of the big show.

Monday: VMware overbooks a lab, attending the welcome reception and a VMware Tweetup
Monday was Developer Day, which was new to VMworld, and Partner Day. Since I'm neither a developer nor a partner, I instead went to one of the hands-on labs, which is a great way to get experience in a controlled environment with instructor help. The labs are very popular and quickly fill up at VMworld.

Unfortunately, VMware accidently overbooked one of the labs this year, making a lot of people who scheduled it unhappy. To its credit, VMware quickly responded to this mistake and did a great job of making up for it by adding labs and offering spots at the new labs to those affected.

Monday evening was the official welcome reception and opening of the Solutions Exchange. Here you could enjoy food and drink, visit the many vendor booths and check out their products. The place was pretty busy and seemed more crowded than last year. I headed to the Communities Lounge that was run by John Troyer and met many of the bloggers and VMTN community members. I participated in a live video streaming interview that Troyer was running as he would grab people to talk about the many things happening at VMworld. I also manned the vExpert station, where people could stop by and ask us questions. Afterwards, I walked around the Solutions Exchange to get familiar with the layout and visit a few of the vendors. I wanted to check the Best of Show winner from last year, Reflex Systems, because I had not seen its product in a while and was interested to see how it has evolved.

After the Solutions Exchange closed, I went to a Tweetup hosted by Troyer at a nearby bar where I met in person the many virtualization people on Twitter. Troyer generously bought the first few rounds, and a good time was had by all. You can watch Troyer's speech at the Tweetup here. He is very energetic as VMware's unofficial chief blogging officer and is a great guy who will go out of his way to help you with anything. Later, everyone retired to get ready for the official start of the show with Paul Maritz's keynote early the next morning.

Tuesday: Maritz's keynote, live Twittering, VMware Go and vCloud Express
Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. was VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz's keynote. I made my way to the blogger section and prepared to live Twitter some of the information from the keynote. Traditionally Paul's keynote is pretty high-level and more of a marketing speech. VMware Chief Technology Officer Stephen Herrod's keynote the following day is more technical and tends to be more popular.

Tuesday's opening keynote began with Todd Nielsen, VMware's chief operating officer, who told us that there were only 30 companies in the Fortune 1,000 that are not using VMware products -- he then challenged his staff to turn those 30 companies into VMware customers.

While this is an amazing statistic, it shows how VMware is mainly focused on enterprise customers and really needs to shift its focus to the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market, where Microsoft typically dominates. Once Maritz took the stage, he talked about virtualization, vSphere and clouds and brought IBM on stage for a cool vCenter Server demo that included power usage statistics for hosts and virtual machines (VMs). They tried to demonstrate that VMs can be moved around and hosts shut down to achieve maximum power efficiency. VMs could also be moved to other hosts in remote data centers that may have cheaper power rates during off-peak times.

Maritz also talked about VMware's new ESXi configuration and management service VMware Go, a hosted Web-based tool aimed at the SMB market that is supposed to make setting up and configuring ESXi easier. The verdict is still out on this one; many of the people I spoke with didn't like this service because it's hosted by VMware. Using VMware Go is similar to using host profiles, but the configuration information is kept on VMware's servers.

He also covered VMware's new vCloud Express, which competes with Amazon.com's EC2. Maritz also talked about the SpringSource acquisition and tried to make people understand it. Many still do not, and it will be interesting to see the results of this acquisition. He also touched on VMware View and the new PC-over-IP technology.

Press-only Q&A with VMware CEO
After the keynote, everyone headed off to sessions, labs and the Solutions Exchange. I had judging duty that day as part of the Best of VMworld awards, so much of my day was spent visiting vendors and finding out about their products so I had enough information to choose a winner for the category that I was assigned (security and virtualization). I did attend a press-only Q&A session with Maritz. To be honest, none of the questions were that great, but some good information did came out of the session.

Someone asked if vCenter Server would support other hypervisors like Microsoft is doing with Systems Center supporting ESX. Maritz's answer was no; VMware is committed to focusing on only its own product because this is what VMware's customers want. Someone else asked if VMware was concerned with competition from Microsoft and Citrix. Maritz answered that VMware is way ahead of its competitors, but it does take them seriously. Finally, someone asked what VMware if it was going to give Live Migration away for free since Microsoft is giving its version away for free. Maritz responded that Microsoft's Live Migration is not really free since you need to purchase its management application to use it.

Tuesday evening: Networking and vendor dinners
Once we completed the Best of VMworld interviews, all the judges gathered in a room to deliberate about the winners for each category and a single Best of Show winner. This took several hours. I later attended one of the many vendor dinner parties, which all seem to fall on Tuesday, while Monday is the welcome reception, and Wednesday is the VMworld party. I chose the Tripwire party and had a great dinner with Tom Howarth, Joep Piscar and Steve Beaver. I was also able to meet in person Gene Kim, Karen Hepner and Matt Hixson from Tripwire for the first time. Vendor dinners at VMworld are typically social events and not really used to try and sell products and services, so we had a lot of good table talk on both virtualization and nonvirtualization topics.

Afterwards, we headed back to the Thirsty Bear for the big Veeam party, I got a chance to talk to Doug Hazelman and David Siles for a while and find out more about Veeam and its products. Veeam's employees' passion for its products and virtualization really shows and explains why Veeam is such a successful company. Finally, we ended up at the lobby bar at the Marriott where we ran into more Twitter folks like Steve Foskett and Dave Graham.

Wednesday: VMware CTO keynote, Virtual Profiles for VMware View, PC-over-IP
Wednesday was CTO Stephen Herrod's keynote, which is always more technical than the previous day's keynote. He started off talking about the desktop virtualization space and how VMware has signed an agreement with RTO Software to put RTO's Virtual Profiles product in VMware View. This basically takes the user configuration and personalization out of the operating system and stores it in a virtual profile to help lower desktop management costs and provide a consistent user experience.

Herrod also spoke about VMware's integration of Teradici's PC-over-IP product . This partnership was announced at VMworld last year and will finally be included in the next release of VMware View, which is expected to ship later this year. VMware's bare-metal hypervisor for desktop clients and its Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP) were covered next. Both of these products have some challenges ahead of them, are still in development and will not be seen until next year at the earliest.

Long-distance VMotion, I/O Distributed Resource Scheduler, vCenter ConfigControl
Two topics covered that VMware admins could really appreciate were long-distance VMotion and I/O Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS).

Both of these are technology previews and will be included in a future release. Long-distance VMotion allows a VM to move between hosts in data centers in different locations and is particularly useful for cloud computing and business continuity. I/O DRS enhances DRS, which currently only takes into account CPU and memory usage when distributing workloads among hosts. With I/O DRS, disk and network I/O will also be a factor when balancing VM workloads, which is important because disk is the slowest resource and often the first bottleneck encountered on host servers. Finally Herrod covered the SpringSource acquisition, the upcoming vCenter ConfigControl product available in 2010 and more on vCloud application programming interfaces (APIs).

After the keynote, I hit the Solutions Exchange to check out even more vendor products. The floor is quote large, and there is no shortage of cool and innovative products to see as VMware has a very rich third-party vendor ecosystem. I also hit a few sessions as time permitted, but these are not a priority for me because they are all recorded and can all be seen after the show ends online if you were a VMworld attendee. I had lunch with my book editor and talked about an upcoming vSphere book that I am working on and attended my book signing at the VMworld bookstore. Late in the afternoon, I went over to the Marriott for my video interviews with TechTarget on what's new with vSphere and security.

Private vExpert meeting with Stephen Herrod: vCenter 4.0 for Linux is coming
At 5:30 p.m., it was off to our private vExpert meet-up hosted by Troyer, which included a Q&A with Stephen Herrod and presentations by Jason Boche and Steve Kaplan. I recorded part of this, which you can view here. A couple of interesting things came out of it.

VMware hasn't forgotten about a vCenter Server 4.0 Linux-based appliance. Developers are actively working on it, and although VMware wanted to mention something at the keynote about it, the company chose not to. On the client front, VMware is rearchitecting it and rewriting it in Adobe Flex (Web-based) and intends to have it available in the next major release, which means we are unlikely to see a specific Linux client because a universal Web-based client will be used instead. Finally, the ESX Service Console is going away for good, and ESX and ESXi are being united. VMware is working on these things, which may or may not make the next major release. Apparently, getting the third-party vendors to adapt is the biggest hurdle.

The VMworld party
After the vExpert meet-up, I met Steve Beaver from Tripwire and Chris Wolf from the Burton Group, and we had dinner with the Tripwire folks. Having only traded Tweets with Chris, it was great to finally meet him in person and have some great conservations. I ended up missing Chris's session on the differences between the major hypervisors, but I look forward to checking it out after the show. After dinner, I headed to the VMworld party, where I ran into fellow VMware bloggers Rich Brambley of vmetc.com and Simon Seagrave of TechHead. We hung out in the Yerba Buena gardens until we finally figured out that all the action and bands were inside the Moscone Center where the keynotes were held. Foreigner was the headliner for the party, and the band played an awesome set including the classic song "Juke Box Hero," which everyone seemed to really enjoy. After the party ended at 10:00 p.m., we headed back to the Marriott bar, where we ran into Chad Sakac from EMC. Chad is another person I've Tweeted with, and it was great to meet him in person. He's very passionate about storage and virtualization.

Going back home
Thursday was the final day of the show. Everything winds down, and people start heading home. I left in the morning to begin the long drive back to Denver. Overall, I had a great time at the show. To me, the best part, as usual, was the networking with other virtualization professionals. The keynotes were not as exciting as the previous year's, since vSphere was just released and there are no new releases on the horizon.

I think it actually made the show easier to digest this year as there were not a ton of new vWords to figure out like last year, when VMware introduced its new VDC-OS concept. I am excited for some of the things announced at the show to become available in new releases and really look forward to next year's VMworld.


Eric Siebert is a 25-year IT veteran with experience in programming, networking, telecom and systems administration. He is a guru-status moderator on the VMware community VMTN forums and maintains VMware-land.com, a VI3 information site.


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