For a storage guy, last week's VMworld 2009 in San Francisco was a great show. All the familiar storage vendors were there and then some. Walking the show floor, I found them to be uniformly positive about traffic and the response they were getting from attendees.
Digging a bit deeper I found that storage vendors were getting attention from a broad range of IT specialists including server, network, architecture, and of course, storage administrators.
Wait a minute. VMworld isn't supposed to be a storage show. And yet storage vendors were, in general, more positively impressed with VMworld 2009 than many of the previously attended storage-focused shows they have been to in the recent past.
Server virtualization is now reordering the IT landscape, and the ground storage vendors have stood on for years is moving under their feet.
At varying levels, storage vendors feel the motion. They know the server virtualization thing is huge opportunity. Said another way, they fear that they could eventually disappear if they don't position themselves properly in the eyes of IT buyers now driving toward near complete if not total virtualization of the enterprise IT function.
Decades ago, storage was a mere peripheral, a feature of the server as Scott McNealy once famously quipped. But as he made that pronouncement, storage was getting connected to its own network and creeping out from behind the shadow of the server into a limelight all its own. EMC perhaps said it best: Storage--Where Information Lives.
Now that networked storage is mature, the ground is moving once again. Data and storage management is heading back toward the server running VMware. Data replication and storage provisioning functions are now features of the VMware server with more to come.
Beyond IT architecture, the architecture of the virtualized IT operations department is undergoing perhaps an even more profound change. The boundaries that once defined operational "silos"--server, network, and storage administration--are breaking down as vCenter becomes the focal point for VMware-managed IT. Hence, storage vendors here at VMworld 2009 get visitors from all walks of VMware operational life.
What am I taking away from VMworld 2009?
- VMware needs to resist playing favorites with storage vendors, especially the one that owns them. To VMware's credit, I saw much evidence that they get this imperative. VMware is democratically exposing APIs and vCenter plug-in opportunities to any storage vendor that wants to use them.
- VMware administrators will be increasingly challenged to choose between data and storage management functions that reside on the VMware platform or live within the storage environment. Larger IT environments will likely settle on a combination of both. Smaller shops may well opt to manage data and storage from the vantage point of the VMware platform.
- Storage-focused shows may no longer be able to support themselves. The nature of the storage buyer is changing. The nature of the storage environment is changing. Both are becoming more diverse and less narrowly focused on issues that only pertain to storage.
VMworld 2010 will likely be another great storage show.