A Look Back at VMworld 2017

SEP 06, 2017

I will continue to echo everyone else in that the biggest spectacle for this year’s VMworld was vSphere on AWS. There was definitely a lot of interest in how IT could move services into AWS, however I was more impressed on how VMware was able to execute and truly demonstrate how a “cloud” is expected to function from both an infrastructure and guest/workload perspective. Many people (both customers and solutions providers) were impressed on how dynamic new infrastructure was added into your region/cloud-environment on a vSphere level when failures or resource contention is encountered. AWS is a native resource pool that is consumed by many DevOps shops to take advantage of the “limitless” infrastructure afforded by AWS. For the general Enterprise, years of experience/expertise has been developed on running and managing IT within vSphere… now thanks to VMware these companies can get the same benefit with little upkeep necessary by IT teams, all the while not having to retrain numerous administrators to learn the ins & outs of AWS (AMIs, EC2, S3, etc.).

I was very interested in VMware’s announcement that they are partnering with Google around their Pivotal Container Services (PKS). VMware is entering the fray on Containers and Container Orchestration by marrying NSX with Kubernetes and developing a platform in which it will be easy to deploy large-scale applications with the benefit of full micro-segmentation natively. Ultimately PKS will find its way into the vRealize suite and allow for direct Blueprinting of Container and VM-based workloads within a common Data Plane / network environment.

VMware demonstrated some significant changes with NSX-t from what we are already familiar with in NSX-v. Fundamentally NSX-t is a reinvention of NSX and implementing it in a way that it really should be for software defined networking. The Control Plane has been enhanced to the point that the mechanics of traditional networking within NSX are no longer required… things like dynamic routing protocols are no longer needed as the Control Plane will populate advertised routes between logical routers within the NSX environment automatically. In addition, architecture changes will allow for more logical instances rather than dedicated infrastructure instances (in the form of VMs) to allow for ingress/egress of the NSX Data Plane. In short, NSX-t looks to make implementation and operation far more simplified while providing the power to unify workloads through a variety of platforms (OpenStack, KVM, ESX, Containers) in a common Data Plane.

I spent some time in the AWS booth and was impressed by the tooling that AWS is building to help provide operational support and analytics to your VMware workloads in addition to your existing AWS workloads. It remains to be seen how tooling between VMware and AWS will foster competition for full Data Center visibility, however Trace3 should be in a good position to offer services to take advantage of whatever preference our customers have in this area.

Although in my opinion these items are not fully baked… I will be watching VMware’s advancement on the following:

  • IoT – VMware demonstrated edge intelligence with their Elastic Sky Pizza demo and demonstrating how they will collect and process sensor data. There is more maturing needed in their offering, however we know that VMware is actively pursuing the IoT market.
  • AppDefense – VMware will be providing administrators a means for baselining application configurations and providing an automated means to remediate vulnerabilities through AppDefense. VMware demonstrated how workloads can be quarantined through the use of policies and firewall rules when thresholds or triggers are activated for monitored applications. This will make a significant difference for companies looking at security monitoring and application dependency mapping solutions…. Might even start to encroach upon products like AppD.

Obviously there was a multitude of various releases and feature announcements… things like vSphere client and Web Client getting an EoL announcement was well received, as VMware is moving toward “Clarity” which is their HTML5 implementation of the vSphere UI. Overall these type of improvements don’t provide anything except a “new” feel to an old and familiar product.

In years past I was always impressed by the amount of innovation in hardware vendors’ product offerings… however VMworld has truly transitioned into an event for the Software Defined Data Center as there wasn’t anything attention grabbing coming from physical infrastructure. Not much has changed in the storage perspective with vSphere storage APIs… several vendors are finally releasing their VASA providers which will allow for greater programmability of native storage features with the use of tagging and storage profiles within vSphere. However, I feel like this is rather late to the game as companies are more and more focused on HyperConverged infrastructure and looking to technologies like vSAN or offerings from Nutanix to help provide greater flexibility and control in their storage environment.

As a final thought, I see more people (Administrators, Managers, Leaders, Executives) having to come to an acceptance of the “VMware tax” if they are looking to embrace the full power of how VMware has demonstrated the SDDC. It is obvious that running vSphere on AWS will not come cheap, however Twitter was full of conversations during the conference addressing how businesses will monetize the cost savings of not having to maintain knowledge/expertise to run infrastructure that has little to no real differentiating value to their business. In addition, many companies will have to fully partner with VMware and utilize the full-suite of products to experience the type of synergy seen during VMworld. Traditionally many IT shops value a mixed portfolio as to not have all their eggs in one basket… I believe VMware’s showing this year at VMworld will start to break those traditions and move more customers into deeper all-in strategic partnerships.

Ryan Marsyla

Technical Director – Data Center Automation

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