Field Report from VMworld 2013: Migrating PaaS VMs to the Cloud

header-graphic-vmworld2013-field-reportThis year, VMworld drew 22,000 attendees and made a slew of announcements. Among all the noise and excitement, VMware also welcomed Pivotal back into the fold. It was a homecoming of sorts, with many Pivotal employees having arrived under the new Pivotal umbrella from years of working at VMware. One VMware alum, Al Sargent, Product Marketing Director at Pivotal who overlooks the vFabric product line that came from VMware, shared with us his experience there.

#1: So Many Familiar Faces

On April 1st of this year, many of us started a new chapter in our lives as we moved many of the application fabric products and people to join forces with the rest of the EMC and Greenplum team. With the transition to Pivotal complete, arriving back to the VMworld halls gave most of us a reason to pause and reflect on the past 5 months. We’ve accomplished a lot in these past few months, and the momentum—particularly around Cloud Foundry recently, isn’t letting up.

And while all these changes and advances have seemingly reinvented us as a company and a culture, one thing definitely hasn’t changed: the customer. Not surprisingly, our customers moved with us too as their subscription and support contracts followed the folks who build the products. And they are still interested in all the same things—reducing the complexity, risk and time it takes to develop and deploy apps in the cloud, particularly apps that handle big data. None of that has changed. VMware’s vSphere virtualization solutions are still the market leader and are still treated as first class citizens in our product process. For the most part, everyone, regardless of the logo on their business card, is still working with the same people. This seemingly big change happened in April, but come August it seems like we were always this way. We were still part of keynotes, our booth was extremely popular with a few standing room only pictures floating around Twitter, and the customer meetings and conversations all progressed as if nothing has happened. So while the transition may have seemed like a big deal, this event was a quiet pat on the back that we did it well. The fact that it wasn’t a discussion point all week means it has not been disruptive to our business or our customer’s businesses. That was the goal, and it was a nice implicit pat on the back that its been a job well done.

#2: Migrating vFabric VMs to the Cloud with vCloud Hybrid Service

As far as product buzz, vCloud Hybrid Cloud Service (vCHS) has been making the most noise for having the most tremendous potential of all the announcements this week. I got a sneak peek demo yesterday from Josh Gwyther of VMware. The technology looks really promising for a three reasons:

First, all of the millions of VMware virtual machines can be potentially migrated to run on vCHS without modification, thanks to vCloud Connector. This includes all the vFabric Suite VMs that our customers have built to run their applications. By doing this, VMware has created an incredibly easy path to the public cloud. Kudos to Patrick Chang for his work in getting vCloud Connector off the ground. Now, the challenge will be for VMware to quickly scale to meet demand.

Second, vCHS promises to be more flexible and easier to change than Amazon EC2. Here’s why—in EC2, you cannot adjust the memory, disk, or processor power of an Amazon Machine Image (AMI), which is their analog for a virtual machine, after it has been created. If you need a bigger AMI, you reprovision and reconfigure a brand new AMI from scratch. This step can create a lot of work if you have a wide range of apps running on many different types of AMIs. With vCHS, the madness ends. If you need more vCPUs, memory or disk, just change it in the vCHS web UI, and you’re done. A multi-hour or even multi-day process takes just a couple of seconds to make changes and then a couple of minutes to restart a virtual machine.

Third, you can do basic administration of vCHS via its web UI. No software needs to be installed.

vCHS will include a range of pre-built, ready-to-use virtual machines, similar to EC2′s AMI library. These are called Virtual Server Deployment Templates, described further in the vCHS Service Description. We’re excited about the possibility of adding Pivotal’s products to this vCHS library as soon as feasible.

#3: Solar-Powered Servers with Pivotal’s Products

Another cool thing I saw was a solar-powered server from a company using Pivotal products (tc Server, RabbitMQ, GemFire, Web Server, SQLFire, etc.) to create a complete development and test environment in a box. At first I was scratching my head: Why not just create some AMIs on EC2, or VMs on vCHS? It turns out that Indian networks and power grids are not reliable. So, you need to have your servers on-premise to ensure availability despite network and power outages.

The company started with Facebook’s open compute project and built their own special sauce to make the power consumption very low in order to match the solar power inputs. It will be great to see how these guys progress. Frankly, I think this could have applications beyond just dev/test environments—for applications where you need to ensure continuous high availability with limited access to power sources over long periods. As a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, where the threat of a large earthquake is always in the back of my mind, I’d love for our police, fire, and health care IT systems to run on these kinds of servers since generators only work for so long until you run out of fuel.

By the way, this points to a key factor behind our strategy of making Cloud Foundry available both as a service and soon on-premise. Faster Internet connections don’t reach everywhere in the world, including critical locations like India, and, realistically, they won’t for decades to come. Public cloud is great where you have fast Internet and reliable power. But that isn’t the case everywhere, including emerging markets that will drive significant economic growth over the coming years. By offering Cloud Foundry as a service and on-premise, we can help our customers meet a broader range of use cases and markets.

To check out Pivotal at VMworld:

-        Come visit us on the showfloor at booth #1641
-        Check out our sessions:

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