Confession - It's been more than a few years since I've been hands-on responsible for the day-to-day running of ESX in an enterprise. I some point, I was asked to move more "up the stack" and manage those who were hands-on and design systems that would rely on VMware ESX as a foundation. As such, some of my views could be a bit slanted more towards wondering how / if enterprises would pick up what VMware put down at their annual trade show and conference, VMworld.
The announcements which caught my attention more than the others are these three:
1. VMware on ARM - VMware surprised a lot of people today by showing off what appeared to be a feature rich version of vsphere running on machines that have ARM processors. This is positioned as some form of edge device use case, and it drew a lot of positive buzz. Admittedly, I don't get the excitement as it doesn't feel useful today. I simply don't know of anyone waiting to use ARM servers. Moreover, the ARM version requires ARM compatible OSes as guests which further limits the usefulness. That said, ARM processors are getting faster and becoming more capable every day. It's possible that these processors will eventually challenge Intel's dominance in the datacenter.
2. RDS on VMware - Amazon and VMware are partnering to bring Amazon's simplified deployment and management of databases from the cloud to the local datacenter. It's neat in that AWS's console shows the database in an AWS view, and the VMware tools, show it in a VMware native view. I'm not sure who this is for. Datacenters that use ESX probably have DBAs on staff already and they are used to making those databases work in a virtualized environment. The technology has been around for years, and many lessons learned have been written for all the major platforms. It does make sense, if the long term plan is to move from ESX on-prem to AWS native as it trains the local staff in how to use AWS.
3. VMWare Project Dimension - This is really the most interesting part of the show for me, and maybe shows some serious ambition on the part of VMware. Project Dimension provides "an SDDC infrastructure as an end-to-end service, operated by VMware. " There's a set of hardware that gets purchased and managed to "simplify operational complexity and cost and offers built-in security and isolation, allowing customers to focus on innovating and differentiating their businesses." That sounds like a hands off, closed box system. It's a great business model as I'm guessing it'll be sold as a subscription service. It's also nice to have customers on the subscription to avoid having to market all the new features year after year in an attempt to get customers to upgrade. Upgrades come as part of the subscription, and it's taken care of by VMware so it wouldn't mean a long and grueling upgrade project for local staff.
I see this as helpful, and even desired by businesses, but it's a heck of a tight-rope to walk with all the vsphere admins out there running data centers. It's no secret that many of those admins have probably been VMware's best ally in the fight against public cloud. They leverage the features of vsphere to the max and often say they can do anything that AWS / Azure / GCP can do if you give them the resources. Time will tell how this plays out. After all, not every new offering is met with enthusiasm by customers.