VMworld 2012 wrap-up: What’s on the Horizon

When I wrote this post, my plane was soaring 34,000 feet above the eastern edge of San Francisco, rocketing me away from VMware’s ninth-annual VMworld 2012. It really seemed the place — floating above the clouds, catching a glimpse of the sun hitting the horizon — to reflect on some of the new products revealed at this year’s worldwide users conference.

The cloud played a leading role this year (as you can expect with any big tech conference nowadays) as vendors demonstrated how small business could use the cloud to create, automate, and provision their own cost-effective private clouds.

But I think the announcement that got everyone the most excited (and let’s be honest, it would only ever get a cheer in a room full of nerds) was that VMware is stepping away from its vRAM licensing model. Rather than pricing based on the amount of memory provisioned inside the environment, it will be based on the number of CPUs on the physical machines used to run the virtual environment, regardless of the power of those CPUs.

But VMware had a lot more in store for us than just licensing news. Here’s a look at my top-three takeaways from VMworld 2012.

1. Glancing over the Horizon. This year, VMware solidified its leadership position in the virtualization industry with the announcement of its newest suite of products: Horizon. The goal of Horizon is to solve the BYOD problem, or as VMware jokingly put it, the SYOM (spend-your-own-money) problem.

And it didn’t give itself an easy task. Horizon will be facing tough questions such as: How can you ensure that these devices are only able to access the information they’re allowed to read? And if you can’t secure a device, how are you securing your network that that device is touching?

Horizon’s task is to sit as a broker in between all of these private devices and divvy out access to virtual applications, virtual desktops, and shared storage. And all of this can be controlled through one central hub, the Horizon Desktop, or Horizon Mobile for tablets and smartphones.

The suite of products will even incorporate some of VMware’s previous point-solutions, like Project Octopus (renamed Project Data) to bring Dropbox-like functionality to the enterprise user. Unfortunately Horizon is still in alpha, so we did not get a full demo at VMworld. But the pieces that we did see left us anxious for another look. More exciting still, VMware promised to help SHI bring an early beta online in our very own cloud environment.

One other tiny announcement was that Horizon’s importable services will be extensible. This means that administrators can present XenApp services via their Horizon storefronts.

2. Your physical network, in a single packet. Another interesting development to come out of VMworld this year didn’t even take the form of a product. Rather, it was a buzzword that made its way from booth to booth, dominating almost every conversation at the conference. The phrase causing all the ruckus: software-defined networking.

The idea came out of VMware’s VXLAN initiative, in collaboration with Cisco and other networking providers, and its aim is to create a layer-two logical network that is encapsulated within a layer-three packet. In layman’s terms, this means that control over network traffic is decoupled from the hardware and handed off to a software application called a controller, giving IT admins more control over their network traffic flow than ever before.

Not only will this networking model simplify the physical networking that is required inside an enterprise network, it also allows VMware’s vShield to integrate and become more competitive in the market.

3. SMBs want in on the private cloud. The most important lesson we can take out of VMworld this year is that small- and mid-sized businesses are hungry for their own managed private cloud, and are looking for vendors that can supply them with the solutions they need. VMware obviously hit the nail on the head when it announced its new vSphere 5.1 virtualization, which makes it cost-effective for SMBs to upgrade to enterprise-grade data protection, storage, and backup in the cloud.

I think we’re going to see a lot more vendors providing managed private cloud offerings for companies of any size looking to simplify how their networks exist within their environment.

Overall, VMworld gave us a host of new products and buzzwords that’ll keep tech guys like me arguing with each other for at least another year. And we’re looking forward to working with the VMware Horizon Suite (after it matures and comes out of alpha). We’ll be bringing it into our workspace as a service model and offering our customers a host of managed private cloud technologies to keep their businesses fast, connected, and efficient.

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