Dare To Thrive

VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) Highlights: vRealize & NSX

My first attendance at VMware’s Partner Exchange (PEX) was filled with both good and bad experiences:

The Good: I was able to see what VMware had up its proverbial sleeve in regards to the upcoming vSphere 6 and the associated infrastructure changes that come along with that such as an improved NSD, vSAN, vRealize Suite and other important technological improvements to the VMware virtualization stack.

The Bad: For me, as an extremely “hands-on” technical professional, I find value in hearing about the technical aspects of new or refreshed products, but always feel that shows like these fall short in the “hands-on” department.

Like many technical folks, I learn by getting my hands dirty with the new technology. Breaking it down and building it back up are the best ways to understand the intricacies to a new technology and how it works. In fact, at Datatrend, we operate a lab environment where we conduct rigorous deconstruction, reconstruction, break/fix troubleshooting, testing, training and demos. So, I have an appetite for deep technical experiences. While PEX offers hands on labs, they are guided labs and offer very little in the way of true troubleshooting and technical exploration in the environments. .

While the labs fell short of my technical deep dive expectations, the stars of the show were VMware’s recommitment to the software defined storage nodes (vSAN), software defined networking (NSX), the new and vastly improved VDI/Horizon/Mirage stack and last, but certainly not the least, the new and improved vRealize management suite of products – now including vSOM and other products combined to offer a comprehensive physical/virtual/cloud management stack for a range of IT services. Having been involved in virtualization software for many years I am excited about the coalescence of these products under the VMware flag and how they will work together to make the design, implementation and management of the virtual datacenter seamless and transparent.

As we move to the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) the evolution of these products to support more and newer technologies will be key. vSAN now has both a hybrid-type setup which uses flash based technologies like SSD’s as a cache layer for underlying mechanical hard drives and an all-flash setup which uses ONLY flash based technologies to provide backend Virtual Machine File Systems (VMFS) storage to a VMware cluster. These technologies are important because now you can scale out your storage without the need for expensive fiber or proprietary disk controllers and disk storage cabinets. Internal storage in each server can now be shared amongst many virtual hosts offering redundancy, speed and reliability that a single storage unit solution is unable to match at this time.

vRealize now includes the vSphere Operations Management (vSOM) Component as well as VMware’s Log Insights which can scrape and incorporate log data from VMware, Unix, Linux and Windows hosts as well as be extended to read data from storage units, networking switches and other devices via the use of plugin packs found on VMware’s website. This gives administrators unprecedented views into their infrastructure at all levels that has never been possible before with a single pane of glass.

VMpartnerexLastly, the star of the show was the NSX stack. As we move to a truly software defined data center, networking and the associated specialized network hardware will begin to slowly go the way of the dodo bird. High speed processors, memory buses and networking interconnects now make it possible to have commodity hardware be the “brains” behind the data plane of the network. Being able to incorporate things like intrusion detection, firewalls, sniffers and other historically specialized type appliances into a single software stack will truly revolutionize how we think about networks in general. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted how Facebook has created their own network switching software and hardware. Given Facebook’s status as the king of social media, this is a monumental moment for software defined networking (SDN)and we can only expect things to get even better as more and more people embrace the technology.

Sadly, VMware announced that this would be the last VMware Partner Exchange and that this show would now be integrated into their VMWorld show which historically happens in the latter half of the year. That is both a good and a bad thing. It was nice to be able to sit and talk with some of the VMware partners regarding their upcoming plans as a partner and not as a show attendee; but, given that VMworld is a much larger production and has a much higher attendance rate I can understand why they would do that to bring cohesion to the platform and the providers of the technology that VMware runs with and upon. And, it’s a good chance to get direct customer insights and engage in dialogue around their unique environments.

All in all, this was a very productive trip. And, I look forward to the upcoming technological shifts in the virtualization world as VMware and the Software Defined Data Center turn the virtualization paradigm on its head once again!

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