VMware stymied in its quest for world domination

VMware has been, and still is the virtualization market leader. But, it's facing challenges, not the least of which are coming from its own user base.

VMware introduced its vision for the software-defined data center at VMworld 2012, and IT pros spent much of 2013 questioning and challenging that vision – or at least their ability to achieve it. In the meantime, VMware continued to build on its strategy by releasing new software-defined products, such as NSX and VSAN. It also sent a clear message that it sees the software-defined data center filled with a variety of VMware-brand management software – perhaps at the expense of partners' products. In fact, if VMware execs had it their way, I suspect they would move the nation's capital to Palo Alto and make the letter V a mandatory prefix.  

Now that we've reached the end of 2013 and it's still legal to utter the word Hyper-V, let's take a look at some of the year's more memorable quotes from IT pros pushing back against the idea of a VMware-dominated data center.

"Their current pricing model, I think, is terrible. It's overpriced. If they add these new features and try to raise the price, that's going to be a tough sell for management."
David Burton, enterprise systems architect at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

A technical preview session for vCenter Operations Manager (vCOPs) at VMworld 2013 excited many IT pros, but some left skeptical that the virtualization giant could deliver at the right price. Who would have thought VMware users would complain about a pricing model?

VMware promised a new customizable user interface and integration with vCenter Log Insight, but some worried those added features could come with higher costs. Apologists defended the prospect of a price hike by claiming the vTax repeal left VMware without sufficient capital to make key acquisitions – like Zimbra, WaveMaker and SlideRocket.

“I believe the term would be 'pipe dream.' There are things you are not going to be able to virtualize, like domain name servers and Active Directory servers. The things you built your infrastructure on can’t be in the infrastructure sometimes.”
Bob Plankers, virtualization architect with a major Midwestern university.

More than once at VMworld 2013, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger called for customers to embrace the idea of a 100% virtualized data center, citing scalability improvements and new features that could make it possible. However, IT pros in attendance took his pitch with a grain of salt – asking whether the benefits of virtualizing always outweigh the costs. Some even questioned whether a 100% virtualized infrastructure was even possible. Others took a more pragmatic approach, asking important questions, like whether their data centers would still be visible when they reached the 100% mark.

“It’ll create chaos. The biggest danger will be [admins] trying to enable it and not telling anyone.”
Stacy Patten, director of networking at Pinnacle Business Systems, Inc., an IT services firm based in Edmond, Okla.

To say the VMware NSX announcement at VMworld drew attention and ruffled feathers is probably an understatement. Analysts and IT pros were abuzz trying to figure out where (and how) VMware's network virtualization would fit into the market. While some argued it could mark the beginning of the end for IT silos, others worried it would only add to intra-business turf wars between server and networking teams. My advice is, don't experiment with NSX without telling anyone. Instead, send the networking team a last-minute email claiming domain over all networking operations – and their jobs.

"VMware has become an ecosystem vampire. It has lost the ability to innovate internally and can only survive by trying to steal good ideas from its so-called partners."
Trevor Pott, systems administrator and IT consultant at eGeek Consulting in Edmonton, Alberta.

VMware vSphere Data Protection 5.5, announced at VMworld Europe in October, wasn't the first product VMware had developed that encroached on its partners' market share. Management tools like vCOPs and vCenter Log Insight, as well as vSAN and vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS), all directly compete with existing partner products, causing some IT pros to question whether VMware is an "ecosystem vampire," incapable of creating innovative new products. (Adding to this suspicion, VMware also confirmed it has no interest in garlic routing technology.)

"To some extent, it's still the drug dealer model -- first one is free -- because it'll be easy for people to upgrade once they're running it, and VMware makes its money on [service and subscription] anyhow."
Bob Plankers, virtualization architect with a major Midwestern university.

VMware's decision to offer vCOPs Foundations as a free download did look suspiciously like a ploy to get users hooked and coming back for more. I'll give you a heads-up if I find VMware lacing it with anything sinister, like vCHS.

This was first published in December 2013

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