Over the past eight years, EMC VMware has learned how to run a great show, and VMworld 2012 was no exception. Through a combination of luck and hard work, VMware finds itself parked at the crossroads of almost everything interesting that's happening today in IT: the gamut of virtualization, public/private cloud, and user experience management.
That's not to say VMware can sit pretty. With the imminent release of Microsoft's Windows Server 2012, VMware faces its stiffest competition yet in the server virtualization space. But outside competition isn't its biggest challenge. As Scott Davis, VMware's CTO for end-user computing, recently told me, "Nobody wants point solutions."
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He couldn't be more on the money. That's the big challenge for VMware: integrating all its technology pieces and helping IT do the same more broadly.
Although you can find comprehensive, feature-rich products for just about anything that ails you in IT today, the massive effort required to stitch together these best-of-breed items and make them work well with each other often dwarfs the capital spent to acquire them in the first place. This is especially true in public/private cloud infrastructure and managing user experience across a wide array of traditional and mobile access vectors -- the two primary strategic focuses VMware has laid out for itself.
For example, vCloud Director 5.1 quietly introduced the ability to craft standards-based extensions to the vCloud REST API. That's a bigger deal than it might seem -- not only because of what it can do, but what it says about VMware's motivations. From a practical perspective, the ability to easily and quickly craft extensions (or even replacements) for vCloud's native APIs without having to reinvent common components such as authentication and organizational structure will speed deployment of vCloud-based implementations and encourage more vendors to offer integration with it. But this works only if it is indeed easy and quick.
Such APIs could benefit customers and vendor partners, but they're also critical to VMware's ability to quickly integrate its own products without unsightly bailing wire and masking tape. Although it's not yet clear what will become of VMware's DynamicOps cloud automation acquisition, it's probably a safe bet that chunks of DynamicOps technology will start showing up in vCloud Director -- and these kinds of API frameworks will play a large part in letting that happen quickly.
The success or failure of VMware in the market -- and the success or failure of IT organizations that adopt the VMware infrastructure -- depends not only on the quality of its solutions, but also on how well it can unite them into a single, monolithically managed, extended, and automated set of tools. If VMware can make itself a one-stop shop for managing virtualized clouds, as well as delivering and managing the user experience, it will transcend the happy accident of finding itself at the intersection of cloud-oriented compute, storage, and network virtualization and truly become a force to be reckoned with -- and a key base for what IT delivers to the business.
This article, "The price of success: VMware's big integration challenge," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Matt Prigge's Information Overload blog and follow the latest developments in storage at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.