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Predictions for VMWorld 2014

Major industry events are a great venue for companies to make announcements and communicate important market and product information. As the 2014 version of VMWorld fast approaches, what might we hear more about? Here are five predictions.

NSX customers will be on display

Industry chatter since the Nicira acquisition has been focused on NSX adoption (or lack thereof). When VMWare bought Nicira, they knew they were buying a nascent technology that had yet to gain traction. That said, they understood that the underlying technology both solved a current problem and could be applied to different problem spaces over time. But after dropping a cool billion, it is time to start naming customers.

Pressure will be even higher after Cisco pointed out more than 580 adopters of its ACI offering (though that number refers to Nexus 9k adoption, not the full APIC vision). Expectations are that NSX will account for $100M in revenue this year, so adoption must be strong. Additionally, VMWare has indicated that NSX would get a separate earnings  call out in the next 2 years. To be called out, it would likely have to account for around 10% of earnings, which would put mid-term growth estimates in the $500M range. If that is going to come true, we should expect a lot of customers to be joining VMWare cohorts on big stages to talk about how NSX has transformed their business.

It will be interesting to see if some of the channel education efforts that have been ongoing will translate into network virtualization certifications that mirror the more traditional networking certification tracks. It wasn’t that long ago that VMWare considered selling around the network teams. It appears they have returned to the networking teams, and this would be a natural addition to their NSX sales efforts.

Overlays and Underlays unite

The biggest hurdle to adoption for overlays is that their existence is predicated on a functional underlay. This means that VMWare is dependent on those pesky hardware guys getting their acts together. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a number of hardware vendors announce the next phase in cooperation with VMWare. Arista and VMWare have already announced the first of these, but others are likely in the works.

But what exactly will these partnerships look like?

The first wave of announcements was essentially VTEP support without a lot of talk about management. I would expect announcements to be more focused on management. Orchestration, policy definition, and policy enforcement will all be interesting additions. Additionally, there will likely be more direct tie-ins to vCenter. This might seem small, but if you believe that there is going to be a war over the point of control in the network, this is important. If control gets consolidated on vCenter, it pulls VMWare closer to the point of monetization in a world where hardware converges on a small number of reference designs.

Overlays expand

This is kind of a cheap prediction since VMWare has blogged about this extensively on their unbranded Network Heresy blog, but I expect to see more information come out about how NSX can provide distributed firewall capability. If the majority of traffic in a datacenter is east-west, you don’t necessarily want to shunt all that traffic through huge firewalls. Virtual firewalls tied to the VXLAN tunnels makes a lot of sense. And these would be managed through the NSX, strengthening VMWare’s hold on the point of control.

But this particular architecture is really only part of a broader security push that will include streamlined datacenter operations (vCOPS), policy (across network, virtualized storage, and applications), and probably additional emphasis on vTAP (F5, Palo Alto, etc).

Virtualization is taking over more workloads

In 2012, VMWare released vCloud 5.1 with a focus on better cloud operational capabilities to help make this the foundational layer of a cloud-centric Data Center. In 2013 they followed up with vCloud 5.5 which included vSphere HA support to encompass business critical workloads, and Big Data extensions to help drive adoption of applications such as Map/Reduce within the software-defined data center. They also introduced their vCloud Hybrid service with key features to help drive development of new applications using CloudFoundry with transparent deployment across public and private clouds.

Most likely this year we’ll see a new vCloud Suite (maybe 6.0?) with additional features and capabilities that allow Enterprises to best encompass more workload types and to help drive ease of operational management of existing workloads across both private and public cloud infrastructure. WE are unlikely to see one big new capability, but instead a lot of smaller features and capabilities that continue to push the ability of vCloud to become a homogeneous layer for infrastructure management in the data center, regardless of workload type.

vCloud Hybrid services to include Big Data as a service, and perhaps new service offerings/locations

VMWare introduced the vCloud Hybrid service last year and announced 3 service locations in the US (and later followed up with a location in Japan) leveraging partner Savvis. Potentially they broaden their partnerships across to other data center providers and more international locations, and increase the ability for collocated private data centers to be interconnected into the hybrid service.

Pivotal supports an increasing number of ready-to-use applications for Big Data. Look for VMware to support these in their vCloud Hybrid service so that customers can easily move big data workloads back and forth between private and public cloud (Pivotal) and leverage the vCloud Hybrid service for just-in-time capacity expansion. We could see customer participation here as well, with GE’s efforts around their Industrial Internet as a possible inclusion.

And here is a bonus prediction: I expect to hear a lot more about the group-based policy work coming out of Congress. While it is too early to see product announcements in this space, policy expression is beginning to take a bigger role in the industry agenda. A common way of expressing policy will make some of the heterogeneous architectures that people hope for more likely. It also creates a stronger connection between networking and orchestration frameworks like OpenStack. 

I don’t actually know if all or even any of these will be true. But regardless, VMWorld is always a fun show with lots to learn. For people who are curious what Plexxi is up to, make like a jet and find us on the show floor in booth 747.

[Today’s fun fact: One 747 wing would accommodate the total living space of four 3-bedroom/2-bath single residence homes (1,375 square feet each).]

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More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

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