The keynote from Paul Maritz at VMworld last week marked a new era in VMware's evolution as a company and - more importantly - some important turning points in the virtualisation space.

Paul's keynote hit some of the important points we (Burton Group) were looking for from the new CEO, including what VMware can do to address the competition that Microsoft is bringing to their doorstep including: own the cloud, partner in management to make virtualisation part of the larger management ecosystem, make the OS irrelevant (VMware needs to do some work here), increase virtualisation activities outside of server virtualisation (increase client virtualisation focus). Paul put some "stakes in the ground" that are some of the right steps to address competitive issues with Microsoft.

Maritz's keynote mentioned 3 focus areas for VMware:

  •   Internal Cloud
  •   Scale to external resources (external cloud)
  •    User/People Centric computing

Each of these focus areas translated into 3 initiatives for VMWare:

  •   Virtual Data Center Operating System (VDC-OS
  •  vCloud
  •   vClient

Notice a theme? Let's look at each of these for a second...

Virtual Data Centre Operating System (VDC-OS) is not an operating system in the traditional sense. It's more of an operating environment. It's VMware's way of creating and owning the virtual data centre environment, top to bottom. The VDC-OS consists of 4 basic parts. At the lowest level, the VDC model consists of physical infrastructure that is potentially housed in both a local/internal data centre and an outside/external data centre.

The next layer was the core of the VDC-OS consisting of Infrastructure vServices (vCompute, vStorage, vNetwork) and Application vServices (Availability, Security, Scalability). The idea is that the Infrastructure vServices abstract away the physical infrastructure underneath (whether internal or external cloud) from the Application vServices, thereby freeing applications (highest layer) and their services (availability, security, scalability) from the constrains of the physical infrastructure. Both the Infrastructure and Application vServices consists of smaller parts (also VMware initiatives) that are interesting unto themselves. For example, in the vNetworking space, VMware is teaming up with Cisco to create a virtual switching infrastructure (Cisco announced the Nexus 1000 product) that provides a virtual switch across multiple physical machines.

The next layer is the Management vServices layer (on the side, but spanning all of the other layers) to manage both applications and the infrastructure. VMware announced a deeper partnership with BMC and integration with BMC orchestration...another checkmark on the competitive strategy list. The last layer, above the core VDC-OS, is the guest OS and application layer which ultimately use this environment.

The next initiative is vCloud. vCloud is less well defined than VDC-OS, but VMware has big plans there. The idea is to create an environment that is conducive for moving VM's between internal and external cloud services. At first, consistency between the two clouds is required....call it a certification programme (in fact VMware is already quasi-termed it "VMware approved" environments) that ensures enough consistency between the customer and service provider environments to produce mobility. But as time marches on, VMware is relying on standardization of the VM and metadata (Open Virtual Machine Format - OVF) and a set of new APIs to create compatibility that can automate application mobility between the clouds without forcing manual environment consistency. As you can imagine, several services providers (VMware has over 100 service provider partners) are lining up to create this mobile workload environment.

The last initative is vClient. The idea here is to create an environment where desktops follow the user, rather than tying users to a single device. Using a small "bare metal hypervisor" (VMware's term)VMware VDI can stream down a VM to the client that is tailored for a specific user. VMware attempted to demonstrate this functionality on stage. They used several devices to show how a user's environment could be put on any device, but the demo went so fast, it was hard to see the effect. The smallest devices (and the most mobile) were on stage, but strangely not part of the demo.

I met with Paul back in July and told him that - fair or unfair - he will be judged by his ability to articulate a clear competitive strategy against Microsoft. He has done that - save one (make the OS irrelevant). But I think Paul accomplished his mission. Now, it's all about execution. The degree to which VMware is successful in the market is directly correlated to the degree to which they execute on many of the strategy points Paul has laid out. Should be fun to watch.