Friday, September 4, 2009

VMWorld Wrap-Up

I don't know who I thought I was kidding when I wrote in my last post that I'd be blogging live from VMWorld. It was a nonstop experience. And while there's been much talk about the number of "booth babes" in nurses' uniforms, catsuits, and the like (and debates as to whether they were cute or scary), in fact there was plenty to be excited about on a purely technological level.

As I wrote on my client blog, Online Storage Optimization, one thing that struck me about the conference was that this wasn't just for industry heavyweights like EMC. There were a number of start-ups there, and walking the expo floor was an amazing way to get to know many of these niche players.

Many--indeed I'd even go so far as to say most-- of the offerings could be described as a clean-up crew running along behind the giant VMWare garbage truck. For all its immense power, one obvious effect of virtualization is that it has made IT immensely more complicated. Many companies and consultancies have sprung up to deal with this--offering myriad ways to "simplify" what has become a nightmare of "server sprawl."

Storage companies have also benefited from virtualization in a number of ways, as Marc Farley's cartoon so astutely summarizes on his StorageRap blog.

The fact remains that no matter how many virtual servers you have in place, there's still gotta be some spinning rust to hold the actual data that's there. Although players like my client Ocarina greatly reduce the amount of space needed to store that data, data growth remains a real and pressing issue.

The other key problem is that virtualization creates complexity on an as yet unheard of scale. The so-called server sprawl that many companies discussed is no small issue. Combine that with the fact that all these virtual servers need to talk to the storage--understanding how best to allocate space and so on--and you can imagine the tangle this can create. Indeed, there was a lot of buzz at this year's show at the launch party for EvoStor, which is storage designed from the ground up to integrate with VMWare. Paul Maritz even made an appearance--a sign they're taking this seriously and recognize the need for software that integrates.

So, this is my very top level, birds-eye view of the thing. I'll leave it to others to get down in the trenches and start sorting out the exact wheat kernals from the particular chaff that each company is providing.

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