VMware must demonstrate it is a ‘serious IaaS provider’ at VMworld: Gartner

As VMworld 2013 is about to kickoff, Gartner analyst explains what users can expect at the event and VMware’s future in the mobile and cloud era

As VMware readies to kick off its annual virtualisation and cloud conference, VMworld 2013 later this week, Gartner analyst explains what users can expect at the event and the company’s future in the mobile and cloud era.

At the event featuring more than 21,000 customers, partners and system integrators, VMware chief executive Pat Gelsinger will discuss the next generation of IT and how the software-defined datacentre (SDDC) can extend virtualisation and automated management across storage, networking and security.

The term SDDC rose to prominence last year during VMworld 2012 with VMware touting it as the next best thing in IT.

A software-defined datacentre is an IT facility where the elements of the infrastructure – networking, storage, CPU and security – are virtualised and delivered as a service and the operation of the entire infrastructure is automated by software.

At VMworld 2013, VMware will have to make a case for its SDDC and its hybrid cloud initiatives said, Gartner’s research vice president Chris Wolf.

Earlier this year, the company launched its hybrid cloud IaaS platform vCloud Hybrid Service. The platform couples VMware’s virtualisation and software-defined datacentre capabilities to extend them to the public cloud “seamlessly”.

“Thus far, customers have been underwhelmed with what they have seen from VMware’s hybrid cloud offering," said Wolf. "VMware needs to show that it intends to be a serious infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provider in order to instil confidence in its customers, partners, and investors."

Currently, nearly 500,000 enterprises use VMware’s virtualisation software. A majority of workloads on G-Cloud and public cloud in the UK also run on VMware.

VMware has also been simplifying its management product portfolio and the analyst expects more clarity on it at the event. 

“Some long-time partners will likely be upset by some of the moves VMware makes,” Wolf said.

Future of VMware’s cloud management platform tool - vCloud Director

VMware’s acquisition of DynamicOps in 2012 set it on a cloud management path.

While the company could make key announcements around vCloud Director (vCD) and its DynamicOps product called vCloud Automation Centre (vCAC) at the event, what users really want to see is richer integration of the tools with the services of their choice, Wolf said.

VMware should also offer seamless management for internally hosted environments to stand out in the crowded cloud management segment, he said.

“It must also make it easier to deploy its cloud management platform from a licensing perspective.” 

Currently, users have to license parts of the vCloud suite both from VMware and again from the service provider.

“What customers really want is the ability to pay for management software and use it wherever they want such as in their own datacentres or to manage workloads in the public cloud,” said Wolf. But so far, neither VMware nor any major competitor has truly simplified licensing for the cloud.

VMware also needs to provide as much turnkey integration with backend management systems as possible, according to Gartner.

Enterprises do not want to invest heavily in professional services or in writing their own scripts to integrate with management systems such as ticketing and asset management. 

“Instead, they want these integrations to be turnkey right out of the box,” Wolf said.

The company should also provide a SaaS-based offering for all of its major management components. SaaS-based delivery will allow its customers to get new management software features at a quicker pace, similar to what is achievable in the public cloud, Wolf said.

In addition, for future IT setups such as active-active datacentres, it will be critical for management and monitoring to reside in the cloud. That can prevent “split-brain” scenarios where each datacentre mistakenly thinks it is fully active and its peer datacentre is offline.

Why software-defined everything may be the future

According to Gartner, the value in every major public cloud supplier’s stacks is in software, not hardware. “Software-defined datacentres and underlying infrastructure is an inevitable part of our future,” Wolf said.

VMware and its partners are now providing the capability to define networks, storage, and security in software as well.

Such an infrastructure makes it far easier for enterprise IT to move workloads between datacentres or to new hardware within a datacentre or even to a public cloud platform.

In addition, software-defined infrastructure makes disaster recovery (DR) easier because it will no longer depend on hardware, Wolf said.

“Many customers are planning additional datacentre consolidation projects that involve load balancing workloads between datacentres. In these emerging architectures, the ability to move workloads between datacentres as needed to balance the load between them will also be critical – and will facilitate further demand for software-defined infrastructure,” he said.

Virtual desktop technology in the mobile and web era

Virtual desktops are pricier than physical desktops and hence, enterprises considering them must have a long-term commitment (at least 3-5 years) to realise the return on investment.

“Otherwise, money is better spent on web and mobile initiatives,” Wolf advised.

For instance, a highly regulated industry that will use traditional Windows applications for the next five to 10 years will see a benefit from virtual desktops but businesses that move quickly to cloud and software as a service (SaaS) apps may not see the same benefit.

Many enterprises are already supporting user personal devices today or planning to implement a BYOD strategy. For these companies, VDI is a good solution as it can significantly lower backend management costs and associated operating expenses, and can result in lower total cost of ownership for desktop workloads. 

“The fact that the work applications and data remain physically secured in the datacentre is another added benefit,” Wolf said.

With regards to its end user computing business, VMware has solidified itself as a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) company. “I expect more noise around VDI and desktop as a service (DaaS) at the conference; however, VMware needs to do more to cement its position as a mobility company. 

Organisations are far more interested in making mobility investments and that needs to be area that VMware should underscore,” Wolf said.

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