VMware’s New Vision: Help Bring about an End to the Schizophrenic State of Corporations

Once the term “virtualization” overcame the stigma of being “evil“, VMware was arguably the largest beneficiary of the corporate transition from the physical world to the virtual one. But as competing hypervisor platforms from Citrix, Microsoft and Red Hat mature, VMware finds its status as king of the virtualization hill under assault with storage vendors publicly sharing they are seeing more customers implementing multi-hypervisor environments. Never one to be put on the defensive, VMware has since moved beyond being a “virtualization-only” provider and is positioning itself in a broader context: A software management solutions provider that can help bring about an end to the schizophrenic state of corporations.

The topic for today’s blog entry hearkens back to a keynote that VMware’s CEO Paul Maritz gave at this year’s EMC World in late May. During that keynote he shared a number of observations as to how corporations are evolving. While their changes are being driven in part by the introduction of virtualization, they are on a much larger level being forced to change by other larger trends occurring within our culture as a whole.

The organizational experience used to be largely limited and constructed around existing hierarchies and paper flows. Even the first generation of web services (internal web pages, emails, etc.) were largely constructed and viewed in that context. As such, these technologies were built around those processes as they started with a desktop centric view with the documents and emails generated by people sitting at desktops then largely following previously established work processes.

The challenge that organizations now face is that the new generation of employees entering the work place (the under 40 crowd) no longer engage the world in the same way as the previous generation. They want to experience information “whenever, wherever and in real-time” and are accustomed to and expecting to see multiple streams of information rolling in from multiple sources to include mobile devices and social media.

Their expectations as to how to engage with data and information are turning traditional corporate workflows and protocols on their heads as companies are simply not set up to meet these new demands. Yet meet their demands these corporations must if they expect to grow and thrive in the years to come as it is only by offering this type of work environment that they will be able attract the best and brightest talent or risk becoming a relic of the past.

This demand to deliver dramatically lower costs while simultaneously implementing solutions that deliver radically different experiences for today’s next generation of users is why so many corporations find themselves in this schizophrenic state to which Maritz alluded. Neither their existing business processes nor their culture is setup to accommodate such a dramatic shift in thinking or workflows.

This gets to the real heart of why VMware sees it as incumbent that VMware itself must evolve to provide solutions that match these new corporate expectations. It appears to already recognize that simply being for a virtualization provider is not going to be enough going forward as evidenced by the anecdotal reports from storage vendors that multi-hypervisor adoption is on the uptick among the customers these storage vendors service. As a result, the value proposition and the resulting margins that VMWare currently demands are about to begin to erode unless VMware positions itself as a higher value play than just a “virtualization provider.”

This new game plan Maritz outlined during his presentation at EMC World. Delivering the new corporate experience while driving down costs still begins with virtualization but Maritz also grasps that VMware alone will not be the sole vendor delivering the virtualization technology to corporations. Instead VMware must learn to co-exist and thrive in a multi-hypervisor environment or risk its vSphere technology being viewed as a commodity.

This is why VMware is putting added emphasis on delivering an integrated management solution in the form of products like VMware vCenter that do more than just manage the corporate infrastructure – it is actually being architected and constructed to understand and interpret the data that it is collecting. While this sounds ambitious (and it is,) it is also absolutely necessary for VMware to execute upon if it is to maintain its perch in the hypervisor space.

This is driven by the fact that virtualization has made some tenets of data center administration that were once very simple to administer much more difficult. Case in point, it used to be very easy for administrator to know what physical resources were allocated and used by a specific application. That is no longer true.

Granted, organizations can now accomplish tasks using virtualization in ways they never could before such as dynamically moving VMs from one server to another whether that server is in the next rack or the next country. However the tools that give corporations the ability to confidently understand how the VM is impacting the physical resources of the infrastructure on which it resides now or predict how it will impact the physical resources of the infrastructure to which it may move are still woefully inadequate.

Further, to move that VM from one site to another and then manage is still dependent on the hypervisor technology being the same at both locations. This has to concern VMware because, as I know from my conversations with multitude cloud service providers (CSPs), once you get out of the corporate data center and look to move a VM to a CSP, many of these providers do not use VMware. Instead CSPs are using Microsoft Hyper-V or, more likely, Red Hat Linux and its Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM).

Since more organizations – not less – are moving to the cloud and CSPs are likely where their data will end up, this story does not end well for VMware. It must either dramatically lower its pricing on vSphere so CSPs begin to adopt it in lieu of Hyper-V or KVM or deliver a new solution that facilitates the movement of VMs between different hypervisor platforms and can interpret how VMs will perform in each.

Based on the comments that Maritz made at EMC World, VMware has already made up its mind up as to it future path. Sure, it is more than happy to sell more vSphere licenses to as many companies that want to buy them as Maritz, by his own admission, said, “VMware wants to be your cloud.”

But that game plan only perpetuates the current schizophrenic state of corporations. Maritz sees the larger trends going on in both the industry and in the culture and knows that for VMware to be successful long term depends on it beginning to shed its image as a virtualization-only provider.

So VMware must instead develop and deliver technologies that simultaneously deliver dramatically lower costs with radically different experiences that, in effect, enable corporations to deploy virtualization that deliver the experience users wants without them becoming the management nightmare they are now. This is why he did not conclude with the thought that VMware wants to be your cloud. He concluded by saying, “VMware wants to manage your cloud.”

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