Thursday, 14 November 2013

VMworld 2013 - some thoughts...

I had the very good fortune of attending the VMworld 2013 conference in Barcelona in October [for free too, courtesy of one of out IT suppliers :-)] and so thought I'd post a few thoughts and impressions gathered from the conference whilst I still remember them fresh(ish).

I had previously been to one other VMworld, Cannes in 2009, and had been very impressed with the conference and the general quality of the break out sessions and so was looking forward to this conference immensely especially given some of the new technologies which had been revealed during the US event a couple of months prior such as, vSphere 5.5, vFRC and the awesome looking VSAN.

The venue, having now moved to Barcelona, was new but the quality of the event was still top notch!
The break-out sessions are the real reason to go to these conferences and they did not disappoint one bit. Close to the start of the event it seemed that many of the sessions I wanted to attend were fully booked up. At first I was annoyed with this but soon realised that just going to the session and waiting outside before it started pretty much guaranteed you a place in the room anyway (although probably at the back) and I ended up not missing a single session all week.
My favourite sessions were on VSAN, flash caching and some of the new cloud automation suites that VMware are now doing. Flash, btw, was everywhere at this event.  If you were in any doubt about how things are progressing with flash technology, you were left in no doubt at this event that flash is going to be EVERYWHERE pretty soon (if it's not made it into your datacentre already).

VMworld had released a mobile app for your smartphone where you could register for sessions and plan your days activities and this was really useful to have, especially when trying to navigate around the enormous conference suite. they had provided maps, social feeds and even an interactive game in the app. This was a really good improvement from the last VMworld I'd been to and even though there were large screens displaying all of the session info almost everywhere you looked, it was so handy to have when you were sitting in a quiet spot in the 'hang-space' and trying to plan where to go to later that day.

I remember being impressed by the Labs at the 2009 conference and again I really liked the accessibility and ease of which you can get first hand experience of so many of the new tech coming out from VMware.  This was a popular part of the conference, especially on the first day, but later in the event it was fairly easy to get a desk and get onto any lab that you wanted.
They had even provided BYOD lab areas where you would use your own laptop to connect to the lab environment which I thought was a great idea (except that I'd only brought my old Android tablet out with me which wasn't really up for the challenge).

The solutions exchange was where all of the vendors pitched up to show off their wares and this had all of the usual suspects that you would expect.  One very noticeable exception though was Symantec.  I had hoped they would be attending (like they had in 2009) as we use Symantec backup products I had a few things I wanted to discuss around vSphere backups and virtual machine AV protection.  From what I gathered this was probably a political withdrawal due to some support issues with their backup products being a little late to the vSphere 5.1 support party (by nearly a year) and probably didn't want to be on the end of too much public bashing where the people who really felt these issues would likely be.
Having said that,  I read recently of how Symantec are offering support for vSphere 5.5 and future releases within 90 days of GA.  This is a great response to the problem and if they keep it up, they will surely keep vSphere backup customers and gain new ones too! 90 days is a very acceptable time frame by which you would start to think about deploying an upgrade to the GA of a new mission critical infrastructure platform such as vSphere.

Some of the solutions exchange highlights I saw this year were these (in no particular order):

  • Tintri - VM aware storage promising great performance at a price point that makes a lot of sense to seriously question your next SAN upgrade.
  • NetApp Flash Accel integration with VSC 5.0 - This is something which I am currently looking to deploy into production and probably the subjet of my next blog post too!  A great product (which is free to existing NetApp customers) and now fully integrated into the vSphere web client.  Looked very slick and adds to the already excellent VSC product too.
  • Flashsoft - Flash caching for physical and virtual environments.  Reasonable price and even though the vendor is SANdisk, it works with any SSD or PCIe flash device too
  • Infinio - VM caching solution which uses ESXi host RAM instead of SSD devices.  Very nice concept and again another sweet price point too (albeit with the requirement to have significant memory free in each ESXi host which is not that typical in my experience)
There were many great products and demos and I've certainly missed out loads of good ones.  These were just some that I was particularly impressed with and liked what they were doing. 
As I said earlier, flash and storage caching solutions were everywhere in the solutions exchange and this is a space where there will be a huge change to how we are mostly all doing our virtual deployments at present.  It's getting cheaper and the solutions are getting smarter too.  Always a good combination!

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