What’s VMworld for? 

That’s to say, is it an event for VMware and its partners to show their wares, talk up the last technologies and meet and greet their customers?  Or is it an event that’s a showcase for the virtualisation industry as it moves from being a technology aimed at early adopters and hard-core tyre kickers to being a viable business enabler?

The spat between VMware and Microsoft (and to a certain extent between Citrix and VMware) has shown how important this question is proving to be. Microsoft and Citrix have ceased to be sponsors of the event because of the ‘unacceptable’ demands laid down on the vendors by VMware - in other words, VMware felt, quite reasonably, that exhibitors who competed head on with it - and who spent a considerable amount of time dissing VMware efforts could scarcely be treated on equal terms with VMware’s on partners.  

The row was given some added piquancy by the spat in the blogosphere when Microsoft and VMware criticised each other’s  hypervisor, particularly with regards to data footprint and security - although, it must be said, Microsoft invented some extremely strange comparisons for the purpose.

No, the row between the vendors was something that was bound to happen sooner or later and VMware is perfectly right to lay down conditions. But that does mask the deeper question - should the only major event that is devoted to and concentrates on virtualisation be in the hands of one company?  For most of the last five years, virtualisation has been synonymous with VMware. The launch of Hyper-V has meant there was a real competitor, and the introduction of live migration to Hyper-V has meant that competitor has become more serious. This time next year, the virtualisation landscape will look very different - will that be reflected by a new type of conference  too?

The big events have gone out of fashion but there remains interest in niche shows - there are some storage and security events that continue to do well. Virtualisation could become one of them - Microsoft, Citrix and Oracle (with its newly acquired Sun) could become a formidable triumvirate if it it wanted to take on VMware at its own game.  There’s a thirst for virtualisation information out there and I wonder how long this trio will be willing to let VMware lay down the rules.