Top 5 things to watch for at VMWorld 2014

A year ago VMware laid out an ambitious plan, now it's time to hear the details

A year ago everyone wanted to know about VMware's big plan.

The company had just undergone a major executive shakeup, with CEO Paul Maritz leaving to pilot VMware/EMC spinout Pivotal and long-time CTO Steve Herrod departing to join a venture capital firm. Parent company EMC's COO Pat Gelsinger -- former CTO of Intel -- stepped in to become VMware's CEO.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 vs. VMware vSphere 5.1 face off -- see which virtualization client prevails. | Doing server virtualization right is not so simple. InfoWorld's expert contributors show you how to get it right in this 24-page "Server Virtualization Deep Dive" PDF guide. | Track the latest trends in virtualization in InfoWorld's Virtualization Report newsletter. ]

And even though VMware had established itself as an industry leader over the past decade by making its ESX compute virtualization hypervisor mainstream in the enterprise market, it faced new pressures as customer interest grew in public clouds, big data, rapid application development and mobile computing.

+ Also on NetworkWorld: Cisco vs. VMware in the new data center+

To VMware's credit, at last year's VMWorld and throughout this past year, the company has articulated to customers, analysts and partners a grand plan that revolves around the software-defined data center. VMware wants to do for the entire data center what it did for the compute layer: Virtualize and manage it.

VMware also made the largest acquisition in its history when it bought AirWatch, signaling its commitment to the virtual desktop and mobile device management markets. In addition, VMware launched a public cloud named vCloud Hybrid Service to accompany its private cloud management software.

So now we all know what VMware's plan is, and the big question this time around is whether the company will actually be able to execute its ambitious strategy cleanly. VMWorld, which starts on Aug. 25 in San Francisco's Moscone Center, could be the place to see evidence.

Below are the top five moves we're hoping to see from VMware at the show.

1. Make private, hybrid and public Cloud advances

VMware is one of the few companies with a head start in providing private, on-premises cloud computing software for enterprises, given the company's strength in the hypervisor market. Many organizations already use VMware's hypervisor and are comfortable with the management software around it. It's a natural extension for enterprises to use vCenter and vCloud Automation tools to build a private cloud. But VMware isn't the only game in town. Microsoft makes a similar argument with its suite of hypervisor and accompanying management tools.

VMware has an opportunity to be the leader in the private cloud market, so expect the company to make some announcements at VMWorld to establish its private cloud software as easy to install, manage and integrate with existing systems.

A second part of the cloud strategy that will be worth watching is the company's plans for its public cloud IaaS named vCloud Hybrid Service. The public cloud computing industry is a tough market with heavyweights like Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft investing large amounts to build up their clouds. VMware has a unique opportunity to offer a hybrid package that combines its on-premises software with its public cloud. (Again, Microsoft has a similar argument with its Windows Server, Windows Systems Center and Azure public cloud though). Does VMware want to compete in the public cloud commodity IaaS market? How will it position its hybrid cloud as the best in the business? Already VMware has positioned vCHS for disaster recovery and backup, but we'll be waiting to hear what other use cases it will be pitching for its cloud at VMworld. The company has said it wants to be one of the big three public cloud providers. VMWorld 2014 could be where the company makes its big move.

2. Bolster its SDN offerings

As part of the transition from the old VMware to the new one, the company spent more than $1 billion to buy Nicira to make a statement in the nascent SDN market.

Some early SDN adopters are experiencing significant improvements by virtualizing their networks. Allowing for networks to be created, spun up and down and managed centrally can bring great advantages. What will VMware do to really encourage mainstream adoption of its NSX platform in SDN environments?

3. Software defining everything

The compute layer is largely virtualized. VMware has a plan for virtual networks (see NSX above). What about everything else? Software-defined storage, or virtualized storage seems like a natural target area for VMware to complete its Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) strategy. Technology to virtualize storage has been around for a while, but adoption has been lackluster. What can VMware do to extend the ease of compute and network virtualization into the storage tier?

4. Cashing in on mobile

One significant change at VMware in the past year has been a renewed focus on end user compute (EUC) and mobile. In addition to buying AirWatch, the company has been poaching executives from companies such as Citrix and SAP. VMware has a broad portfolio in the EUC market, from virtual desktop software (Horizon) to MDM tools (AirWatch). This is obviously a big focus for VMware, so we're expecting to see some significant news from the company in this area.

5. Stronger security

VMware is not only a virtualization company, but it's a security company, too. VMware says that the hypervisor's central position in the data center puts the company in an ideal spot to provide security. (READ: Why VMware says the hypervisor can be security's savior). VMware outlined that argument and broad strategy at Interop in the spring. Now we're hoping to hear details about what exact role the hypervisor can play in securing the software-defined data center.

What are you looking for from VMware? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers the cloud computing industry for Network World by focusing on the advancements of major players in the industry, tracking end user deployments and keeping tabs on the hottest new startups. He contributes to and is the author of the Cloud Chronicles blog. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @BButlerNWW.

This story, "Top 5 things to watch for at VMWorld 2014" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.