The real story behind VMworld 2011

VMware's shindig has become the industry's next-gen data center show -- and this year's event was more revealing than ever

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As I joined the Tokyo-subway crush of identically backpacked conference attendees at VMworld 2011 last week, I calculated that this year's population -- in excess of 19,000 -- represented a fivefold increase over the first VMware event in 2005. The crowds clearly indicated that VMware has become the center of a thriving partner ecosystem from which the next-generation data center is emerging.

The list of partners is a who's-who leading players -- with a heavy focus on storage tech. Four of the five "diamond" partners are among the largest storage vendors (Dell, EMC, HP, and NetApp) while the fifth, Cisco, is far and away the biggest converged data center player.

As you might expect, VMware itself promoted a raft of new product revisions, including vSphere 5.0, View 5.0, Site Recovery Manager 5.0, and vCloud Director 1.5. Taken together, the enhancements in this spate of product releases is nothing short of amazing -- with substantial improvements across the board, especially in storage. (I'll dive into some of these features over the next few weeks, so stay tuned.)

Grumbling in the VMware ranks
Everyone understands that VMware's technology leadership comes at a premium price, but how long the company can resist competitive pricing pressures is an open question. The much-publicized customer push-back over the new vRAM-based licensing scheme used for vSphere 5.0 is an early indicator of trouble on the horizon. It was top of mind for many of the attendees I spoke with.

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