VMworld 2018 drew a crowd of approximately 20,000, down 10,000 from last year’s attendance of 30,000. Why the fall-off in attendance isn’t exactly clear, but containers and public clouds are possibilities. Both are surfacing as potential threats to VMware’s dominating position in enterprise IT.
The IT community typically sees the advancement of application containerization and Docker as a threat to the hegemony of virtual machines (VMs). Application developers are embracing containers in increasing numbers to the exclusion of VMs. Within the enterprise, the center of gravity is shifting toward developers in a way that brings them into closer touch with the operational side of the house—a movement now encompassed by the term “DevOps.”
VMware watches the advancement of DevOps and containerization closely within enterprise IT, coupled with Kubernetes as a container management environment. The increasing reliance on containers and associated development tools also signals increased competition from open source and by extension, Red Hat OpenShift. However, VMware executives can turn a disadvantage into an advantage by leveraging its 300K customer base and IT operational dominance by reaching out to developers and operations staff alike with two messages heard at the VMworld 2018:
- Use VMs to automate container management in a way that is familiar to operations.
- If Kubernetes is the preferred container management track, then embrace PKS for container management—a collaborative effort from VMware, Pivotal and Google—as a way to deploy and consume Kubernetes in a vSphere-friendly way.
Either way, the pitch to customers was to present a VMware as is in-step with the DevOps movement.
On the cloud front, VMware’s strategy is harder to discern. At VMworld 2018, VMware was more interested in pushing distinct products into private and hybrid cloud use cases on a product by product basis than defining an overall cloud strategy. Consider VMware Cloud Foundation as an example. It can be licensed separately by customers as a software-defined, cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution, or offered as a managed service where Cloud Foundation forms the support structure for VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC). This is where we believe a much better opportunity exists. It was clear from conversations with VMware executives and customers that disaster recovery/business continuance was the “killer app” for VMC. One customer we heard from related how his IT organization had automated reliable DR testing on VMC—something that would have taken months if not years to do without it. Another attraction for him was the fact that the DR site—in this case AWS—was fully staffed and able to respond quickly when issues arose.
VMware vSphere is a well-established franchise, but at VMworld 2018, as in previous shows, VMware continued to feature the many ways in which it is building out its product portfolio while leveraging its vSphere base. NSX was once again featured prominently in keynotes—software defined networking for vSphere users. VMware Cloud Foundation (the integration of vSphere, NSX and vSAN) for private and hybrid clouds was also highlighted. A question that remains however is whether or not these product adjacency efforts will ultimately produce meaningful results. As reported at the show, there are now approximately 15,000 vSAN users—up significantly from the 8,000 reported at last year’s show. However, the 7,500 NSX users as of today is roughly the same number as last year.