Trying to kill time on the plane on my way to VMworld 2013; my mind got to wondering what VMware needs to show at VMworld 2013 in order to maintain their position within the enterprise.
VMware has some great technology. They also have some great competition within their main space – Server Virtualization. Microsoft, Citrix and open source hypervisors have quickly become good enough for basic virtualization use cases. Even the real value add of management is starting to be challenged by Openstack for Cloud based deployments. I’ve openly questioned if VMware is on the right path to avoid going the way of previous tech giants that couldn’t pivot past their cash cow technologies.
VMware is not lacking for innovation. Server virtualization is just the beginning of their plan to virtualize the data center. There is still a ton to be done in virtualizing networks and storage. The question is as with all innovative companies, is great technology enough?
There’s no question that both storage virtualization and network virtualization are cool technologies. But having great tech only gets you in front of the engineer. The engineer is normally not the person you need to convince to invest in your product. It’s the CTO. With server virtualization, the argument was pretty straight forward for x86 server virtualization. VMware could come in with their ROI calculator and show even with a hefty license cost and hardware investment almost any organization would save money.
This made the risk of going with server virtualization worth the cost. It was after these cost based conversations that organizations began to trumpet the additional value of managing their environment using VMware server virtualization tools. Now if a CTO wanted to they couldn’t pry vCenter away from their server administrators. It was a great Trojan Horse. Get in with the savings, stay because of all of the other soft value add.
The argument for storage and network virtualization doesn’t revolve around direct cost savings from consolidation. These two areas are more about capability and operational efficiency. But, are we in a market that CTO’s can afford to value capability and operational efficiency as much as cold hard savings? Also, make no mistake, Network Virtualization and Storage Virtualization are not just disruptive from the technical perspective but from an operational perspective as well.
When we talk about implementing server virtualization, it`s primarily limited to one operations group – the Server team. When you talk about Storage and Network virtualization, it involves at least three traditionally silo’d organizations. CTO’s have to be willing to take on the challenge of integrating teams which includes re-skilling their workforce with cross domain expertise. This effort has to have clear value to the CTO and business.
This brings us to what I’m expecting from VMWorld 2013. I understand the coolness of their Network and Storage platforms. What I want is a clear value proposition for undertaking such disruptive technology within organizations. I want a simple way to walk into a CTO’s office and tell them why they need to write an even bigger check to VMware next year and for the CTO to thank me for the opportunity to do so. Right now it sounds very similar to the argument for VoIP in the early days. It took VoIP years to displace traditional PBX technology because there wasn’t a clear value proposition. I don’t believe VMware has the luxury of waiting for this natural transition to happen.
This may be the most exciting VMWorld yet and it has almost nothing to do with virtualization as a technology.