Expectations high for a VMware converged infrastructure product

With VMworld 2014 right around the corner, our Advisory Board experts share their predictions for new VMware products.

VMware has been on quite a trip over the last year, trying to convince companies to adopt NSX and vCHS (and mostly having a hard time). They've also spent a lot of money in the enterprise mobility market on Airwatch and Desktone. And in just the last few weeks, we've started to hear rumors about what they'll roll out at the end of August, including a possible vSphere 6.0 and maybe a converged hardware product.

So, just as we do every year, we're asking out Advisory Board members what they expect to see at VMworld 2014.

Brian Kirsch, Milwaukee Area Technical College

With the release of vSphere 5.5 in 2013, it's a pretty sure bet that vSphere 6.0 will be announced at VMworld 2014 in San Francisco. With a new release, one would expect that VMware will raise the bar even higher on specifications for hosts and guests, further expanding limits that -- in all honesty -- few have even come close to hitting. However, look for further enhancements to the new VSAN and other technologies like VM replication and fault tolerance. All of these advancements are evolutionary steps in VMware's portfolio, but they are not revolutionary. For revolutionary, we might have to look to some key partners. VMware has often stated they are a software company and are not in the hardware business, which is why VCE was created. VCE is (or maybe was) a partnership formed by VMware, Cisco and EMC to create a converged infrastructure product. While VCE's vBlock has enjoyed success, the cost of entry limited it to very large enterprise customers, and the release of NSX helped to create a rift between VMware and Cisco.

Nutanix's entry into the converged infrastructure game brought this technology to the masses, and its products have become a very sore spot for VCE. Nutanix isn't going away. VCE, in it's current form and with the troubles between the players, is just too large and complex to react or lower prices. Where does all of this lead us? We have heard rumors about a converged project called "Marvin." Nutanix has showed that the market is open for converged infrastructure across all sizes of companies, but it won't be VMware filling this need alone. Look for VMware to partner with another company to make an announcement of a converged infrastructure product for the masses managed by VMware software.

Maish Saidel-Keesing, Cisco Video Technologies Israel

There are two things I hope to see at VMworld. The first I think will happen, and the second I am not holding my breath for.

The first will be a hyper-converged appliance offering. There has been a substantial amount of speculation about Project Mystic or Project Marvin, although I assume that is not what the final name will be.

I'm speculating (since VMware is not commenting publicly) that this product will be comprised of three parts.

Compute
This will probably be a generic hardware appliance, probably with a number of highly condensed blade servers in a single enclosure. I would assume it would include 10 Gigabit Ethernet for network and high storage throughput.

Storage
VMware announced VSAN last year and have since made it generally available. I assume a new converged appliance will use VSAN.  

Software
There is no doubt the software for this appliance will be vSphere. However, the question remains whether other parts and management tools will be included. Will there be monitoring (vCenter Operations Manager and Log Insight), automation (vCloud Application Center or Puppet), software-defined networking (NSX), or perhaps some other secret sauce that we know nothing about?

This new product will undoubtedly raise some eyebrows and annoy several of VMware's partners because they will now offer a solution that directly encroaches on current offerings (Nutanix is one example). Will VMware have a single hardware vendor validated for this program, or will all vendors be able to enroll and supply their own products? Time will tell.

The second thing I am hoping to hear at VMworld is the availability of NSX. I know -- technically, it is already available. However, almost a year has passed since the announcement of NSX at VMworld 2013 and the software is still not available for download to the general public.

No public training courses are available -- although I know there have been some elite few who have had the chance to undergo special training. I have voiced my thoughts more than once on the fact that SDN is a great concept, but will be extremely hard to sell to organizations. Adoption must be slow --  otherwise, we would have seen more public courses, more offerings and readily available software.

Christian Mohn, EVRY Consulting

With the recent announcement that the vSphere beta program is open for everyone who applies, VMware seems set to keep up the tradition of announcing new vSphere versions at VMworld. While the beta might be open for the general public, if they apply, the non-disclosure agreement still applies and I wouldn't want to comment on what it actually contains. I think it's safe to say that Virtual Volumes (vVols) will be announced as well, because its beta program was opened at the same time as vSphere. Next, VMware might take the same approach with vVols that they took with VSAN last year: introduce the technology and release it later. However, one thing seems clear: vVols will be available sooner rather than later.

 I'm also certain that Project Mystic / Marvin will be unveiled at VMworld, most likely under a different name. Judging by the amount of secrecy and speculation on what this might actually be, I predict that this will be keynote material, perhaps even on the first day. I also expect that when VMware announces Marvin, we will see more than one hardware partner logo on the slide. Browsing the current VMworld Schedule Builder does not hint at anything, but that probably just means that everyone involved did a good job at not prematurely spilling the beans.

 As far as vCHS goes, I expect announcements related to the number of data centers and geographical locations and not so much around features.

Hail Mary predictions
I also think we might see an upgraded version of VSAN, further expanding on the feature set and enabling the use of local storage as an enterprise storage option. I also really hope that VMware announces something that aims to replace vCenter Heartbeat, which it surprisingly discontinued earlier this year. 

A more general availability of NSX through the partner channel also looks like it might be on the cards. Perhaps we'll even see a scaled down version that might fit smaller enterprises. I also hope that VMware has taken a hard look at licensing costs, and -- this might be too much to hope for -- maybe we'll see some news around pricing of the basic vSphere Suite?

When it comes to the end user computing (EUC) space, I'm not sure what to expect. Horizon 6 was recently released, but VMware will try to create even more buzz around Desktone and Airwatch. Remember that in Horizon 6, Horizon Files were replaced with Secure Content Locker from the Airwatch portfolio, so the process of integrating these products is not only happening on the back end of things, but also starting to be available to customers. VMware is betting a lot of resources on the EUC space, and is now a serious contender. I think perhaps VMworld US comes a bit too soon for us to hear much about integration with Horizon and Airwatch feature announcements. We're likely to hear more at a VMworld Europe 2014. But, who knows, we might get a surprise in the EUC space nonetheless.

General thoughts
Last year saw the announcement of VSAN and NSX, two products that go beyond the core virtualization technology VMware has built its reputation on. It's clear that VMware will continue to build on the broader spectrum of data center services, trying to secure its place in the middle of all the action. Marvin fits into this philosophy well with compute, storage and networking all bundled into one epicenter to build the software-defined data center. I don't think VMware is going to slow down any time soon, and it will continue to try to shape and define the future of enterprise computing. One thing is certain: Once the buzzword clouds evaporate, we will have some new technology to play with after VMworld, and that's always a good thing.

This was first published in July 2014

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