VMworld US 2015: Day 4 Recap

Welcome to The Virtualization Practice’s week-long coverage of VMworld US 2015. Tune in all week for our daily recap of the major announcements and highlights from the world’s premier virtualization and cloud conference.

With all the forward-looking business out of the way (see the Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 recaps), VMworld took a breath yesterday and focused on other parts of the ecosystem. The first annual Developer Day was held as part of the VMworld DevOps program track, and it included a Hackathon where coders and non-coders could compete for prizes. Non-coders had a series of increasingly difficult challenges to complete. Coders worked to create the most useful, creative, and complex tools and services on vCloud Air, judged at the end of the day, and were awarded prizes like a guitar signed by Alabama Shakes and the Neon Trees, the VMworld Party bands.

The VMworld DevOps program track was new this year, and a welcome addition for folks who want to know more about DevOps but cannot justify a separate trip to a conference like PuppetConf. There were sessions every day, all day, by heavy hitters in the industry. Kit Colbert, VMware CTO of Cloud-Native Apps, kicked it off on Monday, with presentations by Andrew Shafer (co-founder of Puppet), Jez Humble (VP of Chef), and Steve Herrod (former CTO of VMware), all focused on the larger topics of DevOps. Between those there were in-the-trenches presentations from folks like Fabio Rapposelli and Massimo Re Ferrè on using tools and techniques to get things done. The DevOps track stayed fairly agnostic, offering sessions on using Puppet, Chef, and Ansible (all competing configuration management technologies), as well as sessions on the VMware Integrated OpenStack modules, on using Jenkins for continuous delivery, and on some of the VMware-specific tools, like vRealize Code Stream.

These are the sorts of technologies that are changing the landscape of IT. While CEOs and COOs and CTOs are on stage speaking about the big trends in IT, it’s the continuous baby steps of the people in the industry that actually make those trends happen. The right person deciding to attend a DevOps session because there’s no barrier to entry once one is in the conference can change the future of an organization. Similarly, there were a number of other smaller announcements from VMware that are pretty important, but didn’t get a lot of attention:

VMware vRealize Operations 6.1 (vROps) got the ability to suggest workload placements based on business and technical rules. This doesn’t seem very interesting at first glance, but this is a large problem for environments with a variety of vSphere clusters. It’s also a problem that competitors like VMTurbo have already solved. Furthermore, vROps will now be able to natively monitor operating systems and applications. Previously, that was possible through VMware Hyperic, a hard-to-use product with terrible adoption rates (for good reason) that is all but dead now.

VMware Integrated OpenStack 2 adds a number of OpenStack components, like load balancing, Ceilometer, and Heat autoscaling. That’s not what’s interesting, though. The most interesting part of the announcement is the words “industry first seamless upgrade capability.” OpenStack suffers from a few particular problems that keep customers away, and hellish or impossible upgrades is one of them. Other vendors, like Piston Cloud, have already solved the upgrade problem, so if VMware wanted to be serious about OpenStack, it would need to solve it, too. And it looks like it’s serious, which is good.

VMware vSphere APIs for IO Filtering sounds pretty boring, but it’s a diamond buried under the mountain of other, seemingly sexier announcements. VMware worked with its partner SanDisk to create an I/O filtering layer similar to that of Microsoft’s Minifilter APIs in Windows. These new APIs allow software to hook directly into the I/O path of a VM, meaning that third-party software can intercept and work with I/O directly. For SanDisk, this opens the door for its FlashSoft caching products to integrate very closely and very efficiently with vSphere (and look, it’s announced just that!) For others, this means DR replication might now be free of the hated and awful VM snapshot or the quirky and unreliable changed block tracking, both vestiges of a pre-vSphere era. With the filtering APIs, a replication product can just insert itself in the I/O stream and copy all I/O as it is happening, without having to figure out what changed at a later date. Look for synchronous mirroring to appear natively in VMware vSphere Replication as a result.

VMware Site Recovery Manager 6.1 now integrates with NSX 6.2, which is sort of a no-brainer, but it also has gained the ability to work with vSphere’s Storage Policy Based Management to allow workloads to be automatically protected, depending on where they’re placed. That’s also a no-brainer, but it’s huge, and it hasn’t been done by VMware before.

Much of this is evidence that, under Pat Gelsinger, VMware is once again interested in following through on its commitments, creating quality products that integrate well with each other and add visible and tangible value to IT. Industry pundits trapped in the groupthink of Silicon Valley keep saying that VMware is dying, but this sort of thing is how VMware will keep customers in the fold. Making it easy for an organization to run its workloads well and to seamlessly transition (or not) to the public cloud where appropriate is huge in the eyes of both CIOs and in-the-trenches IT staff.

Last, of course, was the VMworld Party! All big conferences have parties and bands, and the Neon Trees and Alabama Shakes did a great job of entertaining the crowds at AT&T Park.

Join us again tomorrow for a wrap up of the whole VMworld US 2015 conference, including highlights and key takeaways.