View From the Airport: VMworld US 2019

Gelsinger and co show no signs of slowing down

I think it's fairly safe to say that I picked a good year to visit VMworld US for the first time. While I've been to its European equivalent, this was the first year I went to the main event and it was something of a doozy.

Not only did we get a nice bit of pre-conference sizzle with the news that VMware is acquiring Carbon Black and Pivotal, but the entire show was also a festival of product updates and previews. More than anything else, it felt like a statement of intent from Gelsinger and his comrades, setting out the company's stall for the future.

The big focus of the show and of VMware's main announcements  was Kubernetes. The company is betting big on the container technology as the future of application development, with plans to weave it into vSphere with Project Pacific, and use Pivotal and Bitnami's technology to make VMware even more attractive to Kubernetes developers. Virtually every main-stage announcement featured Kubernetes in some capacity, and VMware veteran Ray O'Farrell is being put in charge of getting that side of the business (including the forthcoming Pivotal integrations) running smoothly.

All the new Kubernetes-based products Project Pacific, Tanzu and the like are still in tech preview with no release date in sight and, honestly, that's probably a good thing. I'm really not sure how many of VMware's customers are ready to start deploying containers at scale. Mind you, making Kubernetes management a core part of VMware's capabilities may well go a long way towards encouraging adoption.

It feels like a future-proofing measure more than anything else. Gelsinger is a sharp guy and when he says that containers are the future, he's not wrong. It may not have reached mass adoption yet, but it's growing fast, which isn't surprising given the technology's proven benefits. This isn't a pivot though; VMs aren't going anywhere, as Gelsinger himself has been quick to point out. He notes that all the companies operating Kubernetes at scale Google, Microsoft, Amazon, et cetera operate them inside VMs. More to the point, it'll be a long time yet before Kubernetes gets anywhere close to rivalling VMs in terms of the number of production workloads.

Between the new possibilities promised by Project Pacific, the increasing focus on multi-cloud infrastructures and the forthcoming integration of Carbon Black's technology into the product line, VMware looks like a company at the absolute top of its game, cementing its dominance of the virtualisation market and paving the way for that dominance to continue long into the future. If Gelsinger, O'Farrell and the rest of the team can pull off everything they've promised, then customers and admins have a lot to look forward to.

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