VMware Gets Its Mojo Back At VMworld 2017
VMware has finally stopped apologizing for existing and also acknowledged that cloud is something customers want to use.
Unlike previous VMworld events of the past couple of years, VMworld has stopped trying to pretend that it can compete head-on with the likes of AWS and Azure and needs to partner with them instead, and not just as lip-service. Gone are the claims that VMware is the One True Way to cloud.
Instead, VMware has realized that its existing customers like VMware’s products and are quite happy to use them—and also like using public cloud as well. It’s not an either/or choice, and customers at the show have reacted positively to the change in tone.
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VMware’s announcement of the general availability of VMware on AWS was generally well received. Customer’s didn’t enjoy being forced to choose which of their children they love the most, and now they don’t have to. VMware on AWS treats AWS' Infrastructure-as-a-Service as just that: infrastructure that can be used to run VMware. Customers who have invested a great deal in the VMware ecosystem can now get some of the benefits of cloud without having to completely re-tool their people and processes for marginal gains. Cloud can be reserved for the cases where it provides a clear, near-term advantage.
“The way I’ve always seen people doing things, the customer always wins,” said Steve Herrod, Managing Director of General Catalyst. “Any company that is successful is super-customer-centric.”
Customers don’t want to re-write all of their applications for cloud within the next year. One of the things that made VMware successful initially is that it enabled customers to virtualize workloads and get the benefit of increased capacity utilization. “It used to be that VMware was about server consolidation,” said Herrod, “but that’s the furthest thing from anyone’s mind now.”
VMware is not the same company it was originally. Yes, vSphere is still the core of the company, but the rapid take-up of VSAN and NSX has shown that customers want more from the company, and that it has delivered products that customers want, and will pay for. VMware has also made major investments in reducing the operational complexity of managing IT infrastructure. The job is far from complete, but the world is also not 100% virtualized, and may never be.
Perfect is the enemy of the merely good, and plenty of customers are able to do very well in continuously making incremental improvements that accumulate into large gains. Instead of trying to pretend that cloud is perfection (which some cloud-pundits seem to assert) and that VMware is such a thing, at this year’s show we saw a VMware that has regained confidence in itself. It doesn’t need to pretend to be all things to all people, and has concentrated on doing more of what it does well, extending into other areas where appropriate, and when things aren’t working, to stop doing them.
This is much easier to do when the stock price is up, hitting $107 in recent days, a record high. Growth can cover for a multitude of sins, but in this case it feels like VMware has turned somewhat of a corner.
Longer term, applications will get written—and re-written—to use new technologies like containers and Functions-as-a-Service, and workloads are likely to bleed across from VMware’s infrastructure hosting methods. The explosion in edge-computing represents a new frontier that VMware could well make a play for, and is reasonably well positioned to do.
For now, though, helping customers do what they want to do is providing plenty of opportunity for VMware now that it has stopped trying to sell them things they didn’t want.
I attended VMworld 2017 on a press pass. I covered my own travel, accommodation, and expenses.
This article first appeared in Forbes.com here.
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