VMworld: Journey to cloud not easy, starts with virtualization

Paul Maritz at VMworld

VMware CEO Paul Maritz presents at VMworld 2011

LAS VEGAS — VMworld 2011 kicked off yesterday with a series of sessions before the afternoon keynote by VMware CEO Paul Maritz, who talked about the state of the virtualization world today, what’s coming for tomorrow and his company’s role in the shaping of the cloud.

With over 20,000 people registered to attend the conference (including exhibitors, partners and customers), attendance has only slightly been affected by Hurricane Irene. More than 19,000 people were in attendance yesterday as the conference began. Approximately 6,700 of the registered attendees are channel partners, and during an early session run by Scott Aronson, senior vice president of global channels alliances at VMware, the virtualization company noted its strong focus on the channel.

In the virtualization space things are growing big time, and now more than half of servers around the globe are virtual, said Paul Maritz, VMware’s CEO, during his afternoon keynote address. Maritz noted that by the end of 2009, there were more new server applications being deployed on virtualized infrastructure than on physical infrastructure, but another change has happened.

“This year, the same industry analysts are telling us we’ve just gone through the threshold of where it’s not only new server applications, but in fact the entire installed base of server applications where there are more server-based applications running on virtual infrastructure than on physical infrastructure,” Maritz said.

By the numbers, that means there is a new virtual machine created every six seconds. From VMware’s perspective, there are 20 million virtual machines running on vSphere.

Although Maritz did say that VMware can suffer from cloud fever as much as any other company, the migration to a post-PC cloud world means a profound change in the way IT is being used and provided.

The journey to the cloud (a phrase that has popped up several times since VMworld started) is not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be quick, he said. There’s a perception among some businesses that shifting to the cloud is as easy as flicking a switch, but of course it’s nowhere near that simple or fast. There are a lot of applications that need to be migrated to the cloud, and that’s a big job.

“Those client-server applications are going to have to be with us for a very long time,” Maritz said.

The journey to the cloud starts with virtualization. The next step from there is improving operational efficiency. As Maritz noted, the cloud has to be about automation. It also has to just work.

“Infrastructure, at the end of the day, is not interesting to businesses. It’s kind of like plumbing in your house. You have to have it,” he said, but you don’t necessarily need or want to know how it works.

As has been pointed out by various IT executives this year, the cloud is here and becoming an important part of business.

“It’s not if cloud will transform the way we deliver IT services. It’s when and how fast,” said Carl Eschenbach, co-president of customer operations at VMware, during a day one morning “super session” with channel partners.

According to Aronson, customers are currently trying to figure out what cloud means to their businesses and how to actualize it. VMware’s vision is that the IT world of the future is going to be built on hybrid cloud environments (a vision that was echoed by channel partners in the audience), and the channel will play a fundamental role in helping customers make that transition.

“This community has to lead the transition that’s already underway,” Aronson said.