VMworld 2016: Welcome to the Multi-Cloud Future

Posted 10/27/2016 by Commvault

An event app’s list of breakout sessions is always a good indicator of the key themes of an event, and this year’s VMworld Europe included tracks for Hybrid Cloud, Software Defined Data Center, End User Computing, Cloud Native Apps and DevOps. With the possible exception of end user computing, which seeks to allow non-programmers to create working applications, these topics will be familiar to most industry watchers. For simplicity, we are going to map these to the three mega trends in the industry right now: the shift to the cloud, the development of next generation applications and the refresh of on-premises infrastructure. VMworld 2016 had plenty of content for each.  

Combined, these mega trends constitute what Pat Gelsinger, VMware CEO, described as the ‘greatest period of disruption in the history of IT.'

Cloud: Multi-Cloud Networks

Pat kicked off his keynote by forecasting the growth of the cloud that, by his estimate, will account for 50 percent of all IT by 2021 - with IoT devices outnumbering human held devices 3:1 by that time. He forecasted Q1 2019 being the crossover point where machine connections will outnumber human operated devices on the Internet. He developed this theme at length, but the main points were that hybrid cloud architectures will be with us ‘for decades to come’ and that there is an increasing number of public cloud choices. The problem, as he sees it, is that the multi-cloud network, if unbridged, has the potential to create application and data silos that perpetuate some of the problems the Cloud set out to solve. VMware’s vision for the future is a software-defined network fabric that spans many clouds, where workloads can be moved from a private data center to a public cloud or between clouds. Specifically, the day one keynote presentation focused on VMware’s new Cloud on AWS offering and the VMware Cross-Cloud Architecture, which is designed to provide a common operating environment across multiple clouds.

Applications: Cloud Native Apps and Containers

On day two, the keynote focus was directed more toward applications. The message targeted VMware products that help with the deployment of cloud apps and that simplify the development and security of apps, whether in a local data center or a public cloud.

One of the biggest themes in applications today, which was a key day two keynote topic, concerns cloud-native applications, containers and container frameworks. Information Week described the key concepts:

“At the heart of "cloud-native" lie Linux, Linux containers, and the concept of applications assembled as microservices in containers. Indeed, the Linux Foundation launched the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. But cloud-native means a lot more than implementing Linux clusters and running containers. It's a term that recognizes that getting software to work in the cloud requires a broad set of components that work together. It also requires an architecture that departs from traditional enterprise application design.”

This trend is developer driven as containers (and associated tooling) can simplify the delivery process by making code images more portable across the application lifecycle of development, test and production. It is very much an emerging technology, with Gartner forecasting that less than 20 percent of production enterprise workloads will use containers through 2020 1.

VMware’s take at this conference was how easy these new applications are to develop and yet how hard they can be to manage in the enterprise.  To assist with this, VMware seeks to seamlessly merge and integrate infrastructure with the next-generation cloud-native frameworks such as Docker, Pivotal Cloud Foundry, and Kubernetes.   VMware also has their own container/framework solution platform to make their cloud native apps easier to manage through existing VMware tools.

The On-Premises Infrastructure Refresh: Private Cloud and Hyperconvergence

The third topic requires a bit of reading between the lines to get the full picture. VMware describes themselves as the leader in private cloud, and they can make a fair case for it as they are a leader in a foundational component for private cloud services, namely virtualization.  However, virtualization (particularly server virtualization) technology has been increasingly seen as a commodity. At the same time, the big idea of the Software Defined Data Center is extremely complex and can be daunting to customers, driving VMware to embrace a hyperconverged approach to deliver the simplicity customers demand. VMware certainly acknowledges that complexity is a major challenge – reducing or eliminating it was a key theme of Pat Gelsinger’s day one keynote. Gelsinger cited a VMware-sponsored report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which painted a picture of complexity in the enterprise with multiple cloud services, data management solutions and mobile OSs contributing to an enterprise that is complex and hard to manage.

Converged infrastructure solutions are rapid to deploy and modular, allowing organizations to easily add capacity as needed rather than having to guess at future capacity. Pat made the point that hyper-converged infrastructure has revolutionized private cloud deployment. However, unlike Nutanix and the other converged players in the market, VMware is not trying to get customers to migrate away from SANs from the likes of Dell EMC and IBM. With the rest of the hyper-converged players having no such concerns and VMware needing to compete, it seems to me there will be a significant overlap here.   

How do these topics align with Commvault? The answer is: very well indeed. Many of our projects around the world are driven by these three mega trends: the shift to the cloud, the replacement of traditional infrastructure and increasingly the development of next generation applications. We also help our customers simplify the protection, management and usage of their data. Our biggest deals tend to happen when a transformational event at the account meets an understanding of the power of our software and its deep integration with all the components of IT (including very deep integration with VMware products). Whether it is modernizing a Data Center, standing up private cloud or putting a Hadoop cluster into production for Big Data, our prospects are seeing that Commvault Software helps make transformation much easier. Our support for ‘next generation’ infrastructure has always been strong and today we support 38 cloud providers, eight hypervisors and open source cloud frameworks, such as OpenStack.

The light bulb moment for many of our prospects is that our software makes data independent from both the application and the infrastructure. Additionally, it is this independence that gives our customers the agility they need in driving the biggest generational shift of technology the industry has yet seen.

1 Emerging Technology Analysis - Containers in the Enterprise, 2016