After more than a decade, VMworld has become an annual staple in the fabric of IT infrastructure users, technology providers, and the channel. But in recent years, VMworld has somewhat leveled off in both attendance and sponsors. VMware is under attack by public clouds, open source (including OpenStack), and the containers movement. VMware has entrenched themselves in diversifying from vSphere with five product focuses and five key imperatives.

The five “billion $” business units

  1. Storage: VSAN has huge momentum with over 5,000 customers and anyone else focusing more on SPBM and automation through NFS, VMFS, and VVols. SRM is a DR product that has only niche adoption.

  2. Networking: Focused on NSX for SDN and NFV with tons of momentum.

  3. Automation/management: Focused on vRealize family of products (vROPS, vRA/vRO, Log Insight, vRealize Business, etc.).

  4. End-user computing: Arguably the most successful at more than $1 billion with the future focusing on “Workspace One.”

  5. Service provider: aka vCloud Air and the vCloud Air Network (4,600 providers).

Five imperatives

  1. Innovate like a startup, deliver like an enterprise

  2. Unified hybrid cloud

  3. Renaissance in security

  4. Automate everything

  5. Taking risks = lowest risk

Theme and key message

“be_Tomorrow” was a theme to focus on becoming the tomorrow your organization seeks. Attendees could do this through discovery of tech, trends, and the community of people and ecosystem creating the future. While Pat Gelsinger, Sanjay Poonen, and Ray O’Farrell all highlighted different parts of today and tomorrow’s cross-cloud architecture, the key example for me was seeing SolidFire client Nike get onstage to talk about deploying VMware Integrated OpenStack. Nike was driven by the need for agility and on-demand consumption. Their choice in VIO gave a strong indication to attendees this was for real.


  • Five-day show

  • 23,000 attendees

    • Flat attendance, some would argue there was only 13,000

  • 430+ breakout sessions

  • 40+ panel discussions

  • 10,000 VMs created in HOL

General takeaways and impressions

This VMworld focused less on product releases and instead pivoted to lay context to when we will be mostly cloud. In order to meet that future, VMware focused more on a multi-cloud vision called “Cross-Cloud” and an end user computing offering previously launched as “Workspace One.” This is both an architecture and a service offering.


Cross-Cloud represents an architecture of SDDC on prem with a new vCloud Foundation technology that federates (manage, govern, secure) with IBM and eventually other public clouds. The announcements in conjunction with Cross-Cloud were:

  • VMware Cloud Foundation™ is a unified Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) platform that makes it easy for customers to manage and run their SDDC clouds;

  • Technology preview of Cross-Cloud Services™ to showcase how customers can manage, govern, and secure applications running in private and public clouds, including AWS, Azure and IBM Cloud;

  • VMware vCloud® Availability™, a new family of disaster recovery offerings purpose-built for vCloud Air™ Network partners;

  • A new release of VMware vCloud Air Hybrid Cloud Manager™ to provide VMware vSphere® users zero downtime application migration to VMware vCloud Air.

My take: This is far out ahead of real adopt and utilization. As a reset on what should have been VMware’s multi-cloud strategy years ago, they are playing catch up.

Workspace One

VMware has built a billion-dollar BU mostly through VMware Horizon Suite (VDI).  With acquisitions of Airwatch and Cloud Volumes (now called App Volumes), VMware has been moving beyond the desktop to access through a digital workspace for access to desktop OS, apps, files, and management of devices and personas. High-end graphics have taken center stage with NVIDIA GRID and improved user experience with VMware Blast Extreme.

My take: Horizon and VDI have ruled the deployments. DaaS has niche adoption through service providers seeing more success worldwide than in the US. While there are net new deployments, the majority of recognized business comes from VDI redesigns from Citrix or previous generations of View. Cost and complexity still remain the biggest challenges with organizations still building silos of resources. Those silos need to fall, and EUC needs to be just another workload.


One of the biggest surprises of VMworld was the resurgence of vSphere Virtual Volumes. Despite no mention in the keynotes, VVols drew 1,000+ people in standing-room-only sessions. With interest now emerging, the natural question is: Will real adoption kick in?

My take: VVols has had slow adoption because of the long time it takes for organization to migrate to vSphere 6 and to think about automation (because that’s really what VVols is). You will now see the rise of the VM and App Builder utilizing SPBM and VVols to pivot consumption from the storage admin. Storage admins aren’t that interested in VVols. VM and App builder are.

Booth and overall VMware presence

This was the first time SolidFire was part of NetApp’s booth at VMworld. Previously SolidFire had owned a significant presence, with suite sessions and a customer party. All that went up a notch by combining forces with NetApp. Here’s some of the highlights:

  • Booth: Lots of traffic looking for SolidFire in the NetApp presence with demos for VVols and a host of platform questions.

  • Suite sessions: SolidFire once again hosted a suite for attendees to attend.

    • VVols: Gave customers a detailed run through of SolidFire VVols with many staying hours after the session and wanting the beta code.

    • EUClaunchpad lifts off: SolidFire has a special venture with VMware EUC called the EUC Launchpad with a focus on consolidating the product and solutions needed to launch a EUC (VDI, DaaS, etc). You can find it at SolidFire had a suite which housed a soft launch of the program to select channel partners and VMware personnel. The feedback, including VMware’s EUC CTO Shawn Bass, was tremendous. You’ll see more rolling out in the coming weeks and months before and after VMworld EU.

  • VIP party: SolidFire joined NetApp for a packed event joined by Pat Gelsinger.

  • vExpert giveaway: Once again SolidFire created and gave away a vExpert pack for Cards Against Humanity.

Final take:

VMworld may have leveled off but is still and will continue to be the predominate force for end users, the ecosystem, and industry experts. SolidFire remains a significant and fast growing part of VMware’s future with evolving organizations to the next generation data center. This will be done through:

  1. Changing storage agility and consumption through SolidFire VVols.

  2. Changing the cost/complexity of EUC (VDI, DaaS, etc) through SolidFire’s ability to deliver high density of users with guaranteed user experience and VDI storage for free (when you add VDI as a mixed workload).

  3. Helping VMware users adopt OpenStack and containers based on SolidFire leadership in those domains (see Nike and HedgeServ for early proof).

  4. Helping vCloud Air Network service providers move beyond vSphere in designing and delivering SLAs in a cross-cloud era.

We hope to see you in VMworld Barcelona or next year at VMworld US!

Keith Norbie

At NetApp Keith drives Strategic Alliances in partnership with the business units and currently leads VMware, Data Protection (Veeam, Commvault, Rubrik) and SAN/Brocade. This applies strategy development, advising/collaborating with product managers, incubates new offerings, cross functional solution development, and executive interlocks. All of this is to drive GTM net new revenue to NetApp via partners in key areas like Private and Hybrid Multi-Cloud, EUC (VDI), Modernized Data Protection and Next Gen SAN for Enterprise Apps.

Keith joined NetApp in February 2016 with the acquisition of SolidFire and previously had 20 years in the channel as an executive including a successful acquisition built from a startup. He delivers a passion for delivering results through clarity, focus (less is more), relationships, intense curiosity, and seeking signal from noise.

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