VMworld 2009: Virtualization, controversy and eating your own dog food

VMworld, one of the industry's biggest virtualization conferences and VMware's home turf, was hosted this week at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Here are 15 things seen and heard at the show.

1. VMworld attracted 12,488 attendees, down from last year's 14,000 but not a huge drop considering the economy. Registration fees ranged from an early bird rate of $US1495 to an on-site rate of $1895.

2. VMware claims that only 30 companies in the Fortune 1000 are not using VMware, and company officials offered free tickets to next year's VMworld for anyone who can convince the remaining 30 of the error of their ways.

3. The data center powering VMworld boasts some pretty impressive statistics, with 37,248 virtual machines packed onto 776 physical servers. The whole setup used 540 kilowatts, whereas a purely physical implementation would have required 25 megawatts, according to VMware CTO Stephen Herrod.

4. But the data center didn't work as well as intended, with attendees reporting continuous technological problems during a vSphere boot camp Sunday and during hands-on lab sessions on Monday. "It was rather unpleasant," said attendee Jay Weinshenker, a database administrator for Luminex Corp., in Austin. "The labs I really look forward to. There is huge demand for them and they're good to get a lot of hands on experience. They talk to you a little bit and then you get to click around, try actually messing around with some of it, and you couldn't really."

5. "Booth babes" were not absent from the conference show floor, with PHD Virtual Technologies displaying two young ladies dressed as nurses. BlueCat Networks one-upped the competition with their well-traveled reps clad in skintight silver spandex, as also seen at Interop Las Vegas.

6. An authentic-looking blackjack table and dealer highlighted the Virtustream booth, which gave $500 worth of fake chips to conference attendees. Top blackjack players had the chance to win an iPod Touch.

7. Microsoft was limited to a small booth after claiming that new VMworld rules prevented the company from exhibiting its System Center Virtual Machine Manager technology. Customers who asked to see System Center were directed to online resources, Microsoft technical product manager Edwin Yuen said. Microsoft mainly used its booth to promote various virtualization-related Twitter accounts, answer questions from customers, give away high-speed USB hubs and hold a contest for a Microsoft Zune giveaway.

8. VMware's vSphere virtualization platform has been certified to run on 1,000 servers, 1,000 storage systems, and 300 network devices, CEO Paul Maritz boasted during a keynote speech.

9. Maritz also poked fun at himself by claiming that one of his only contributions to the IT world is coining the commonly used "eat your own dog food" phrase. "You can read about it on Wikipedia, so it must be true," Maritz said.

10. The most bizarre question asked of Maritz during a Q and A session with media was phrased as follows: "Who would you accept as your new overlord?" The query was posed by a journalist who claimed that VMware will inevitably be acquired by Microsoft, Oracle or Cisco. The writer apparently forgot that VMware has already been acquired by EMC, which has owned a majority stake in VMware since 2004.

Maritz politely deflected the question by saying "I take the fifth," and the writer who asked the question promptly left the room.

11. The VMware acquisition of enterprise Java vendor SpringSource is still pending regulatory approvals, but Maritz said he doesn't anticipate any problems and pledged to maintain SpringSource's open source ideals.

"They are an open source company, and we intend that they continue to be an open source company," Maritz said. "We think it's crucial in working with developers and learning what's really going on."

12. Virtualization adoption is growing, but even among VMworld attendees most customers are not putting the majority of business-critical applications on virtual servers. Nearly 7 out of ten respondents are virtualizing fewer than 50% of business-critical apps, according to a survey of 200 VMworld attendees by the vendor Virtual Instruments. Concern about performance is the main roadblock limiting adoption of virtualization for critical workloads.

13. Twitter was heavily used by conference attendees, both to provide instant analysis of sessions and complain about various technological or logistical failures. The "fail" hashtag became popular with tweets such as this one: "brewing storm at #vmworld: "all sessions are full"...WTF man? $2k for this thing and you can't get in to any of the sessions? #fail."

14. Cisco and VMware demonstrated a long-distance live migration capability that will let customers move virtual servers across data centers as many as 125 miles apart. The technology does not replace VMware's disaster recovery product known as Site Recovery Manager, but Herrod gushed about the new capabilities, saying "you can actually evacuate a data center and keep things running as you do so."

15. VMware is already promoting next year's VMworld conferences: Aug. 30-Sept. 2, 2010 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and VMworld Europe from Oct. 11-14, 2010, at the Bella Centre in Copenhagen. This week's show featured more than 200 sponsors and exhibitors as well as 300 presentations and breakout sessions.

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Jon Brodkin

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