VMworld 2017 kicks off next week with some 20,000 attendees trekking to Las Vegas to hear about the latest cloud and virtualization trends in tech. While Amazon Web Services (AWS) looks to be the belle of the VMware ball, we’re also anticipating major announcements around networking, security, and hybrid cloud. Additionally, this year’s event is the first under Dell Technologies’ ownership, so we expect to hear more about synergy from the acquisition and maybe even some product collaborations.
SDxCentral Senior Editor Jessica Lyons Hardcastle recently caught up with Chris Wolf, VP and CTO of global field and industry at VMware, to discuss what to expect at VMworld 2017. SDxCentral editors will also be reporting live from the event next week. The following interview has been edited for clarity.
VMware Cloud on AWS is certainly going to be a hot topic at VMworld. What can you tell me in advance about what you’ve seen with early-access customers running their VMware environments in the AWS cloud?
Wolf: There’s been a tremendous amount of excitement in terms of demand for early access from customers wanting to get into our beta program. We’ve had customers really pushing us pretty hard in terms of things like global expansion to make sure that we’re ready when they are ready. There’s a customer in particular that’s looking to consolidate multiple data centers into VMware Cloud on AWS.
Can you share any customer successes or use cases?
Wolf: One is certainly data center consolidation. You have enterprises that are still looking to be more efficient. VMware Cloud on AWS gives them a way to consolidate data centers but also maintain their VMware footprint, be able to maintain the same tools and processes they already have, and the same level of availability. That’s been a key use case.
Keep in mind there can be pretty liberal definitions of data centers where data centers are not always massive, honking facilities. Sometimes they are smaller, more regional outfits they are looking to consolidate and not have to worry about having people support infrastructure in a remote facility.
Another use case we’re seeing is around disaster recovery and being able to leverage Amazon cloud and VMware cloud on AWS for DR.
Another is around hybrid applications where I have some traditional enterprise applications but I might want to integrate them and use some other AWS services and offerings as a part of that hybrid app stack. So maybe I want to use Redshift from Amazon in conjunction with an enterprise application. Or even if I’m looking for just a cloud-based database tier, I can use Amazon RDS with a traditional application as opposed to an on-prem database.
One other one I think is important is around having some flexibility and control of your intellectual property. On the VMware stack anything that I build there I can run practically anywhere, be it in a cloud environment, or a data center, or out at the edge, or a branch office. So it makes it very easy to port any of the code you built and any of the tooling and processes you have along with it.
We’ve heard rumors that VMware and AWS may be developing enterprise data center software. Are there plans for future integrations between VMware and AWS?
Wolf: The partnership is healthy. Since the start of this relationship, there’s been excitement on both sides in terms of how we can collaborate and innovate together. And there’s excitement in our partner ecosystems as well. Think about the traditional hardware integrator as an example.
There’s a lot of work on the hardware integration side that is starting to become not as interesting as it had been in the past. By that I mean I can get hyperconverged solutions, really well-integrated solutions like VMware Cloud Foundation that just makes all of that happen. Your compute, network, storage, and security is all easily provisioned, automatically updated, and things like that.
What does that do to traditional hardware partners? In the context of the Amazon relationship, it lets them start to think about some of the core values that might have defined the company over the last 25 years. The market’s evolving and now I need to build customized service offerings for my own customers. That’s where some of these service offerings around both VMware and our partnership with Amazon can become quite interesting.
What is VMware’s hybrid cloud strategy and how has it changed since last year’s VMworld?
Wolf: Our hybrid cloud strategy has been pretty consistent over the last 12 months as we’ve really laid out the foundation and the R&D. There’s a couple parts. There’s the part that we’ve been talking about here: VMware Cloud on AWS, our IBM partnership, Cloud Foundation, and parts around our core infrastructure. That part of the strategy is around giving our customers a consistent way to build and operate and maintain their applications, no matter where they run. Giving them complete consistency of the engineering and the operational stack, regardless of where that application executes. And for businesses building their own core intellectual property, that’s really important to them because it gives them a lot of flexibility and at the same time it still gives them consistency to operate anywhere. That’s key around our core business. It is still proving those tenants and certainly leveraging our partnerships with these strategic cloud providers to get that VMware footprint anywhere we can.
And the second part is also based on the fact that not everything is going to run on our stack — and it shouldn’t. There are lots of reasons why I would want to leverage a public cloud service. There are enterprises that leverage a variety of SaaS services that do really important things, whether that’s Workday or Office365. On top of that they leverage lot of native public cloud services to build and ship different applications for a variety of reasons. When they are using those services, we’ve been focused on providing a variety of options that can help them to centralize their operations of those services and give them some consistency in terms of how they would operate across those environments.
What will we see and hear as it relates to security products and services at the show?
Wolf: Right now, if you think about what we’ve done so far specific to the security space, we have a significant amount of traction with our NSX solution specific to the microsegmentation use case.
The way we like to think about it: your security threats are very dynamic in nature. Your network and security has to be virtualized and even more dynamic to be able to respond to these threats. That’s a key reason why we’ve seen the rapid growth of NSX over the last few years.
We still sit in a unique position in terms of where we’re at in the stack. It does give us great awareness, from the application to the OS kernel, to any type of behavior over the network. That does allow us to lay a foundation to empower our security partners to do some pretty special things in partnership with VMware.
Several sessions this year focus on hyperconverged infrastructure. What does the future hold for HCI?
Wolf: Hyperconverged is a really important industry. We’ve seen tremendous growth over our vSAN [storage] product offering, as well as a significant amount of growth and interest in our Cloud Foundation solution.
If you think about really fast to deploy, agile, easily scalable infrastructure, these are things that everybody needs. If I’m looking at enterprises today — and I have this conversation with a lot of CIOs and CTOs — I ask them a question. Do you think agile, programmatic, scalable infrastructure is a business differentiator? Pretty much across the board they all say no. If that’s the case, what is the business value of me trying to build my own custom version of this infrastructure solution?
Sometimes there are very specific reasons why you have to go custom, and it’s something that VMware is still committed to. But there’s a lot of reasons where the general-purpose application just needs a very simple, modular infrastructure offering.
Because of that, we’re seeing a lot of enterprises move toward these types of offerings. It allows them to effectively check the box on infrastructure and make it relatively invisible from a deployment and maintenance perspective. And then they can allow their teams to focus on things that differentiate them.
This is something that is really important in terms of what VMware has done with Cloud Foundation. It’s one thing to say you can deploy and get infrastructure up quickly. The other key elements of Cloud Foundation that’s a differentiator for us: Cloud Foundation includes NSX. It’s not just about compute and storage. Hyperconverged infrastructure has to include the network, too. We can not only automate the deployment of the network, but we also automate the lifecycle management of all of that infrastructure software.
As new features and updates become available, we’re automating the updates of those on behalf of the customer. Instead of some of these lengthy infrastructure upgrade planning cycles that a traditional IT organization has to go through, with VMware now that’s just a feature of software.
How does HCI help enterprises build their hybrid cloud environments?
Wolf: When you start thinking about operating across a hybrid cloud, when you’re thinking about just features and functions, [you think]: “I want to maintain some level of compatibility with what I’m operating in the public cloud. When you’re using HCI and you’re using a solution like vSAN or Cloud Foundation, and you can get very quick and agile updates and improvements to your software stack. That’s allowing your enterprise data center and your edge sites to stay compatible with what’s running in the public cloud. It’s keeping you at the leading edge of all the features and functions you are seeing in the public cloud.
This is not to say you can’t do that with traditional data center infrastructure, because technically you can. It’s just harder to do. There’s more pieces and parts and more things you have to certify. It would probably take you longer from a planning perspective. Hyperconverged really shortens the time that you have in terms of getting true value out of some of these new capabilities that are being innovated in the cloud with some our customers.
This year’s VMworld will be the first under Dell Technologies’ ownership. How will this affect the show?
Wolf: VMworld is still a major industry event. We’re going to continue to show not just the work we’ve done in VMware and Dell Technologies. We’re an independent software company. We’ve done unique innovations across all of our different hardware partners. We continue to treat every hardware partner fairly. And we continue to innovate with them. You’ll see not just things we’re doing with Dell but things we’re doing with folks that would be traditional Dell competitors as well. That’s important to VMware’s success.
One of the real positive things that has happened with VMware since EMC first acquired VMware was that Joe Tucci kept VMware free to operate independently and innovate. Michael Dell has done the exact same thing.
Anything else you’d like to say in advance of VMworld?
Wolf: I’m really excited about VMworld this year. We’re going to be really showing people that you can have your cake and eat it to. Operations teams can operate and manage environments. They can feel safe about the environments they manage using their tools of choice. And software engineers are free to develop and really push innovation using their platforms and tools of choice. You truly can bring DevOps together in a really meaningful way that doesn’t force one section of an enterprise to dictate behavior to another. That’s pretty powerful.