A Virtual Stage for Virtualization

Reporter's Notebook: VMware set a big stage to follow its August IPO act, but other actors took bit roles in the VMworld cast.

It was only four years ago that Diane Greene stepped onto a stage in San Diego to greet a small crowd of 1,500 virtualization enthusiasts at that years VMworld Conference.

What a difference between 2003 and 2007.

This past week, Greene, the president and CEO of VMware, stepped onto a much different stage in San Francisco and found herself before more than 10,000 IT professionals eager to know the latest developments in virtualization technology and what the company had in store for the next year.

VMware gave itself a hard act to follow after the companys initial public offering of 33 million shares of stock in August turned into a blockbuster, but the sheer size of the 2007 VMworld Conference seems to have been a worthy follow up.

"A year ago, we were talking about virtualization becoming mainstream; now were talking about it as industry," said Greene in a statement that summarized the size and scope of this years event and also conveyed how far virtualization has come.

At the opening of the conference, luminaries of the industry, including Michael Dell, offered videotape testimonies of how their organizations were working closely with VMware and their combined efforts to bring virtualization even closer to the mainstream. At the show, both Dell and IBM representatives talked about building virtualization capabilities, especially the ESX Server 3i hypervisor, directly into the hardware itself.


Click here to read more about Diane Greenes opening remarks at the 2007 VMworld Conference.

After Greene delivered her opening remarks, Intels Patrick Gelsinger and AMDs Hector Ruiz spoke of multicore microprocessors and the promise the virtualization at the silicon level.

It should also come as no surprise that AMD scheduled the release of its quad-core Opteron processor to coincide with this years VMworld and that company executives talked up the chips virtualization capabilities in the weeks leading up to the Sept. 10 release.

Not to be outdone, Intels Gelsinger spoke of the new type of virtualization capabilities that his company is looking to bring to market, such as better I/O virtualization, with its upcoming processor architecture.

At the Intel Developer Forum, scheduled to start Sept. 18, executives are expected to delve deeper into the new virtualization capabilities of its recently released 7300 series processors for MP servers and detail new benchmarks for virtualization as well.

Still, the fact that two bitter rivals—Intel and AMD—came together to share the same space showed that VMware can now stand on its own as an industry leader with the ability to bring top-tier vendors to the same table.

"As Malcolm Gladwell may have written, virtualization has reached a tipping point," Ruiz said.

Beyond the hardware OEMs, the show turned into a significant showcase for other virtualization vendors eager to use the show to detail their own technologies in front of potential customers. There was also a sense of trying to fill in the void created by the acquisition of XenSource by Citrix and some of the uncertainty that deal has created.

At the Virtual Iron booth, Mike Grandinetti, the chief marketing officer for the Lowell, Mass., company, spoke of the amount of walk-up traffic he witnessed and the interest in the technology. In addition to looking to create its own place in the enterprise, Grandinetti said his company is also eager to partner with some of the other small vendors to provide an effective counterweight to VMware.


Click here to read more about VMware and Microsoft.

At the other end of the floor, SWsoft and Parallels, a pair of jointly owned virtualization companies, were showing off new betas of their respective products. Benjamin Rudolph, SWsofts director of corporate communication, said the VMware IPO coupled with the $500 million Citrix paid for XenSource shows how valuable the technology has become in a short amount of time.

"The fact that Citrix paid a half a billion dollars for XenSource is impressive," Rudolph said. "I think it shows the value of the technology."

Even the smaller players got into the act.

A new company, Xsigo Systems, used the company to officially open for business as it looks to bring virtualization technology to the I/O space. Another small company, Dunes Technology, which develops lifecycle management products for servers and PCs, also made some news—it was purchased by VMware.

Stefan Hochuli Paychere, the co-founder of Dunes, which is based in Switzerland, said his company has been talking with VMware since the last VMworld Conference. While he expressed his excitement for the deal, he noted that smaller companies like his hold the key to where the industry might head in the next 18 months.

"I think the market shift in the next 18 months is really going to focus on business processes and automation," Hochuli Paychere said. "We think that VMware saw a need to get into this space."

What ever the future of the industry from this point, it only seems poised to get bigger and even more global. At the show, VMware announced plans for its first European show in Cannes, France this coming February.


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