Day one of VMworld 2008 and the debut of Paul Maritz

The big virtualization show, VMworld 2008, officially kicked off yesterday with the opening keynote address coming from new VMware CEO Paul Maritz. A brief history, new concepts, future product demos and hard hitting questions were all part of the event for Maritz.

VMworld 2008 officially kicked off for many people yesterday, and the day started with a keynote presentation from the new CEO of VMware, Paul Maritz. Sure, there seemed to be a slight bit of tension in the room as the thousands of attendees sat quietly waiting to see how Maritz handled himself on stage for the first time at VMworld.

The million dollar VMW stock question was could his keynote presentation calm the fears and uncertainty that many of us common folk have since the removal of Diane Greene and the subsequent executive migrations. Perhaps the jury is still out on this one as I received a mixed bag of opinions from people throughout the day.

Interestingly, Maritz opened the keynote presentation with some house cleaning. While I expected the typical "please turn off your cell phones" message (the one that usually gets ignored by a few folks in the audience), instead I was greeted with some legal mumbo jumbo about informational futures found in the presentation and that they shouldn't affect the company's stock price. Ok, so I don't have all the terminology down here, but I was simply mesmerized over the message, so please don't hold it against me.

With that, the keynote kicked off, and Maritz started the presentation with a history of what brought VMware to where it is today -- the company's 10th anniversary. He recognized the efforts and contributions made by VMware founders Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum, both of whom are now gone from the company and missing for the first time from the show (although they did show up in VMworld 2008 cartoon fashion during the presentation).

And unlike past VMworld shows that chanted the positive stories of "green" computing, there was little to no mention of "green" in this keynote -- perhaps mentioning green (or Greene in this case) as little as possible was purposely done.

After discussing the various technology changes that have taken place over the years that helped to shape the industry and VMware to where it is today, Maritz introduced us all to the three technology domains that VMware envisions: the Virtual Datacenter OS, the vCloud initiative and the vClient initiative. I wondered if the people from Vizioncore noticed all the new VMware product names that were preceded by a lowercase 'v'.

A demo of vCloud was offered and explained how a local cloud could interoperate with an external cloud. A virtual appliance was downloaded from the marketplace (the future vApp), and a business policy was then defined around it stating the SLA must be less than 4 seconds. If the condition is not met, a cloud for that application should be seamlessly created to address the additional workload. The demo showed off the company's future product called AppSpeed which was gained from the acquisition of BeeHive. In the demo, the virtual appliance was put under heavy load until it surpassed the SLA threshold and then AppSpeed automatically provisioned a new instance to bring the response times back to normal levels. The demo looked very much like a Bee Hive demo that I saw during a previous VMworld show.

The last part of the keynote finished things off with the concept of vClient. Maritz said that the focus of IT will change from the device to the user, and he added, "We need to be able to look at how to equip an individual with the environment that he or she needs, independent of the devices." And although adoption of VDI has been slow for the most part, Maritz expects that vClient will catch on and gain adoption.

To show off the technology, Maritz moved into a demo that showed a typical VDI scenario. He then showed off the disconnected device by plugging in a USB key to a laptop which could then access the same desktop with a rich user experience. A good end user experience is key to adoption. And the demo showed off much needed enhanced 3D rendering.

Later that same day, Maritz had a private Q&A meeting with analysts and press. He quickly recapped the main points from his keynote presentation, and then went into audience questions for the remainder of the discussion.

Maritz was immediately hit with a number of hard hitting questions. Media members wanted to know what the mood was around the company since the removal of Diane Greene, the loss of so many key executives such as Rosenblum, and the falling stock price.

Maritz responded that a bit of angst and turnover is expected in a company after a leadership change like this, but that the company is filled with smart people and other smart people are joining the company in order to work on interesting products.

Another member of the press mentioned a Microsoft promotion that took place earlier in the day on the casino floor, where people were handing out $1 casino chips, compliments of Microsoft, with a message that VMware's product is too expensive and pointed to a URL of Maritz replied that this is typical guerilla marketing, something even he did when at Microsoft years ago, and it usually happens when your company is in a distant second place and you are trying to get attention.