The real story behind VMworld 2010

A ton of product announcements -- plus a big marketing push around the private cloud -- added up to a major undercurrent of change in the virtualization industry

Last week, I had the opportunity to camp out at VMware's VMworld 2010 conference in San Francisco. The odd amalgamation of 17,000-plus geeks and suits from around the globe -- fleetingly united by the same free conference backpack -- was a sight to see.

Both VMware and its unusually wide community of partners (and some competitors) made good use of the face time with potential and continuing customers. Through all of the marketing din and underneath the press releases, a few trends stood out, along with a strong sense that virtualization was reaching a new level of maturity.

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The cloud is where it's at

Nearly every vendor present made a tremendous effort to show exactly how "ready for the cloud" it was. That ran the gamut from VMware's unveiling of its vCloud Director -- which supports the construction of private clouds -- to an assortment of cloud-related announcements from partners. No matter which booth you visited, "cloud" was the first word off the marketing droid's tongue.

I don't mean to sound dismissive. This is actually a really, really big deal. I've been critical of the hype surrounding the cloud, but what I saw at VMworld was a sea change from what I've seen previously. Some very large companies (VMware, but many others as well) are pinning massive amounts of capital -- and indeed, their futures -- on both the concepts of public and private clouds becoming not just an option, but the de facto way of conducting IT operations.

Interestingly, some less cloud-focused companies are making defensive moves to prepare for VMware's and others' success. A good example is HP's announcement of its HP CloudStart, which can be described as a "private cloud in a box." This offering is built on a combination of HP's BladeSystem Matrix, StorageWorks, and Cloud Service Automation products (essentially: c-Class blade chassis, EVA SAN, and a mountain of automation, provisioning, and monitoring software). CloudStart allows a customer to build a fully functional private cloud within 30 days of signing on the dotted line. It's a very cool product, but take a step back and imagine why HP might be offering CloudStart at this particular time.

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