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VMworld Vegas 2011 Recap

Last week the Cisco team embarked on VMworld 2011 event in Las Vegas. For me, it was fun catching up with many of my friends from VMware, Wyse, Citrix (Kaviza, RingCube), and Atlantis Computing while building new connections with folks from AppSense, RES Software, and Teradici just to name a few. The virtualization ecosystem seems strong and healthy. And with a record-breaking +24,000 attendees, its apparent that this “virtualization stuff” is still top of mind for many IT professionals.  Now that the dust has settled from all the Vegas activities and announcements, I want to share some thoughts on some of the big trends and themes that jumped out at me during the conference.

Focus on the “User Experience”

Whether it’s Projects AppBlast, Octopus, or Unified Communication (UC) announcements, the virtualization industry is moving beyond just enabling flexible backend infrastructure toward what business executives and end-users often care about most -- technologies that enrich their professional lives:

  1. APPLICATIONS
  2. DATA
  3. RICH COLLABORATION

Prior to VMworld, Gartner’s Mark Margevicius and Chris Wolf (twitter @cswolf) both received early previews of Cisco’s next generation Virtualization Experience Client (VXC) portfolio strategy and vision.  Building off their guidance and encouragement, the Cisco VXI team decided to start an active outreach campaign to solicit more feedback from the market on where we are headed and how we can do better. Cisco, VMware and Wyse agreed to partner up for VMworld to host a NDA, invitation-only VXI Whisper Suite to an influential group of customers, partners, and industry insiders.  note: VXI = Virtualization Experience Infrastructure (think VDI++)

Unfortunately, I am unable to publicly discuss the “secrets” that were “whispered” in the VXI Whisper Suite but what I can say is the Cisco VXI team remains focused on delivering the best possible “User Experience” that unifies the worlds of virtualization, voice, video, telepresence, and collaboration in a way that’s unique and immersive.

Also, without revealing any specific names of customers who attended, I can say it was an impressive group of some of the top IT executives from several Fortune 500/ Global 2000 companies.  The audience members in general were open, honest and candid about what they saw and we greatly appreciate all the feedback we received.  Overall, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and supportive.

Below are 3 short video clips from some of the top industry thought-leaders, partners, and customers just minutes after leaving our VXI Whisper Suite. Their feedback was consistent to what we heard all week — thanks to Alex Van Deusen for conducting these quick interviews:

Ruben Spruijt (twitter @rspruijt) reaction to Cisco VXI Whisper Suite

Steve Kaplan (twitter @roidude) reaction to VXI Whisper Suite

Large Enterprise customers (Financial & Healthcare) reaction to VXI Whisper Suite

Apps, Data… and the Cloud

VMware’s new project AppBlast was clearly the “buzz” of the entire event. Scott Davis, VMware CTO for EUC, introduced AppBlast as part of his 2013 and beyond roadmap. With AppBlast, VMware has introduced a tech preview of a new product offering that allows customers to take their “fat applications” particularly on Windows and make them accessible from any modern browser by “automagically” wrapping those legacy applications with HTML5 (no rewrite required).  If this works as well as the demonstration showed, this could dramatically ease the transition to a cloud-computing approach where any app on any device using any modern browser becomes a more tangible reality. Kudos to VMware for making this bold move -- you have every virtualization enthusiasts’ attention and many of us want to see this materialize into a real product soon.

VMware’s project Octopus was a close second as the highlight of the event. VMware describes this as “Dropbox for the Enterprise” which is not as impressive in concept as AppBlast since there are several startups offering variants of a “Dropbox” type product with greater degrees of central IT control, security enforcement, auditing, and policy management. Without a doubt, this is something that the IT industry wants a more established leader to deliver upon.  If VMware can pull it off and gain wide adoption, this could be a significant achievement.

Storage, storage, storage – not done yet

Virtualization has fundamentally changed the way we architect and build our datacenters.  The combination of x86 server computing and virtualization is like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate — “two great tastes that taste great together”

However, far too often a sour lemon taste spoils the datacenter fun for workloads like desktop virtualization. And that lemon is legacy storage particularly in the form of Fiber Channel based SAN.  As more customers get comfortable with desktop virtualization, they often remind us… “yes, we want to move more aggressively with desktop virtualization but going from a regular PC with the cheapest storage in the world into the datacenter with the most expensive storage in the world, those basic economics slow us down.”

So it was not a big surprise that the expo floor was booming with new storage startups to address this market need. Further, this year’s Best of VMworld Desktop Virtualization Winner was given to a hardware startup, Nutanix, which brings together commodity storage and x86 compute in a scale out fashion with a logo and motto reminiscent of Wyse’s “No PC” except it’s “No SAN”:

No SAN

Personally, I think it’s interesting but taking a dual-prong approach of competing against x86 server vendors and SAN storage vendors will be a delicate tightrope for that team to cross. I wish them the best.

The storage startup at VMworld that seemed most promising and innovative to folks like Manny Rivelo (EVP, Cisco) and I was Coraid, a new SAN scale-out company not using FC, FCoE, or iSCSI. Instead, Coraid let’s customers mix-n-match any combination of SSD (Flash), SATA, and SAS drives attaching via Raw Ethernet.  The Coraid founder is Brantley Coile who invented a new protocol called ATA over Ethernet (AoE). This isn’t the first time Brantley has created something groundbreaking. He also holds the key patent for NAT (Network Address Translation) and built the company that gave Cisco’s its first stateful firewall and load-balancer back in the late 1990s.  It’s still early days for this startup but Coraid is one company to watch because they already have over 1500 customers, several impressive public Cloud deployments and very unique technology. According to Gartner, 40-60% of today’s VDI budgets are spent on storage but does anyone believe 40-60% of the solution value reside in that storage? If new innovations like AoE become pervasive in virtualized datacenters, those days of 40-60% of VDI spending toward storage may come to an end and more explosive adoption of virtual desktops will become a new reality.

Healthy ecosystem = experimentation and innovation

With so many new start-ups in the market and a robust virtualization ecosystem, I believe we will look back on this era as a healthy time for both experimentation and innovation.  Personally, I’m ecstatic about how our industry is trying to improve the user experience for corporate computing,  ease the transition to cloud applications and data delivery, and fundamentally change the way we architect storage in a virtualized datacenter and the public cloud.

What do you think of the “signal to noise” ratio in virtualization today? Is all this experimentation just too much “noise” and not enough “signal” (innovation)? Do you think this year’s VMworld was about a lot more than apps, data, and rich collaborative experiences delivered from the cloud?

The Digital Revolution is Upon Us (watch it below):

Please share your thoughts in the comments below…

Doug Dooley

Cisco Systems -- Director, Desktop Virtualization

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Where is the Cloud Collaboration Market Heading?

The hosted services market has seen tremendous growth over the past year. In particular, Cisco’s own Hosted Collaboration Solution has received the greatest validation from service providers, including key deployments with Verizon earlier this year and Orange Business Services recently announcing their Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) in June. Businesses are now realizing the value of providing a rich suite of collaboration applications that are accessible anywhere, on any device.

The next question remains, once these solutions are developed and initially adopted, what’s the next innovation in the market that will keep current customers, while attracting potential ones?

There’s no denying that mobile devices are a part of everyday business life. With many users accessing business applications and resources via their personal smartphones, tablets and laptops, it’s only natural for the next iteration of cloud collaboration to stretch into the mobile realm.

In a recent study conducted by Cisco’s independent research arm, The Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), it was revealed from those surveyed that business users will be key adopters of mobile cloud services.

Read More »

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Is this you? Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Managers from Mindflash [Infographic]

Source: Mindflash (click on image to visit their site)

Are you one of these managers? The folks at Mindflash have put together dysfunction at-a-glance that is essential reading if you manage people.

See the entire graphic here.

You don’t have to be a bad manager! We have some of the best and brightest -- including Ken Blanchard -- who have created some terrific WebEx sessions for us on the essentials of good management. These are available to watch at any time, simply click and Read More »

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Video: My Perspective and a Look Into the Future

Guest post by Bessie Wang, a summer intern with Cisco’s Corporate Communications team.

Had a hard time passing level 4-14 in angry birds? I admit I cheated and looked at the online tutorial on YouTube after much frustration. Virtual video tutorials now range from game cheats to 8 minute abs work outs to various makeup lessons. Video is changing the way we play games, interact, learn and even exercise and is constantly enriching our learning and communication experience.

Although nothing will replace the energy of being at a U2 concert live or the feeling of an embrace from a loved one after an exhausting work day, video can revolutionize and enrich people’s experience as the world becomes more mobile and international. Cisco is bridging that gap by allowing customers to get as close as they can to the real experience no matter where they are. Cisco’s broad video portfolio, from Movi desktop cameras to digital signs and immersive TelePresence rooms, delivers the highest quality of video at any time or place. Let’s take a tour of  how video can transform different industries in the coming years …

Education

Every student learns differently. Video can enhance how knowledge is shared in the classroom, whether it is delivering a more visual lecture or providing greater access to instructors. As students are early technology adopters, educational institutions have an opportunity to harness this to enhance, student connection, interactions and enrich the student’s experience.

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Citrix putting the “Personal” back into the Corporate PC

Today, Citrix announces XenDesktop 5.5 with the addition of “Personal vDisk” from their recent acquisition of RingCube. To give credit, this story on RingCube broke earlier from folks like:

Having been a former member of the executive team at RingCube prior to re-joining Cisco’s desktop virtualization group, I’m pleased to see Citrix get aggressive about tackling this problem.  And the overarching problem has been that corporate PCs have evolved to become more cumbersome, less productive and less “personal” to work on in recent years.

Now you might ask – is it really important that “Personal Computers (PCs)” remain “Personal”? Well, actually it turns out even in a corporate setting, it makes a huge difference.  IT departments can dictate to some degree what employees can and can not use for business but each day we see an explosion of more usage on more personalized devices.  As knowledge professionals, these devices often operate as an extension of who we are, what we say, and what we do.

How did we get here?

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