Today, I completed 7 years in VMware. All of us who have been doing VMware for a long time (I consider 7 years a long time in x86 virtualisation) know that we did not predict it would have such a massive impact in the industry. I’m a technologist, and yet 7 years ago, I had no idea I’d be doing what I’m doing today. There are many stories that many of you virtualisation old timers can share. Please share in the comment section. I think we all can agree it’s been a great journey worth taking.
While the past 7 years have been much more than I expected, the next 3 years will be even more exciting. I think we are in period where the IT Industry is being fundamentally redefined. There are many large waves that are overlapping, each with its own ramification. It is truly the survival of the smartest in this technology-driven industry!
There are a few major trends that I’m seeing. I think they are clear enough that each is no longer a Prediction, but rather just a Projection. We maybe wrong in the rate of the adoption, but the adoption trend is there. It is a matter of When, not If, anymore.
At the end of 2014, I wrote my 2015 projection. I’d expand on that as I’m looking at the next 3 years now. Our industry is undergoing an interesting change. No large vendor is safe now. You can be a multi-billion dollar business, dominating your industry for decades, and yet the very core of your offering is being attacked. If it is not being attacked, it is being made less relevant. How each 800-pound gorilla will play their game is an interesting movie to watch!
The underlying current causing the above massive ripple consists of several trends. The trend takes the shape of either industry trend or technology trend, or both. The largest trend, Cloud Computing, is obvious that I won’t cover it here. Let’s see some of the trends, and see if you agree. Do post in the comment as I’m keen to hear your opinion.
UNIX to X86 migration continues.
- UNIX is still a >5 billions dollar industry. It is mostly used in the mission critical environment, running older version (more proven) of business applications (e.g. core banking). This will provide the demand for x86 virtualisation vendors. I see a lot of migration consulting and mission critical support opportunities for the next 3 years. The migration requires consulting as it’s an application level migration. This also explains why it is moving slowly. I also see customers buying more x64 hardware to handle the UNIX migration, instead of using their existing hardware.
- In the next 3 years, I see customers beefing up their virtual X86-64 platform to handle this mission critical workload. Specific to VMware, more customers are adopting mission critical support. Deeper VMware knowledge from IT Professionals will be required and appreciated by your customers.
The x86-64 architecture is becoming good enough for more and more use cases.
- IMHO, this provides the crucial support for SDDC. You cannot have SDDC if the hardware is not a uniform pool of resource. The software needs to be able to use any hardware, so the hardware has to be standardized. No more proprietary ASIC for most cases. The Data Centers are standardizing from lots of different hardware to basically x86-64. You run all your core software (e.g. firewall, switch, router, LB) on the same common hardware. Because they are common, they become commodity. The stickiness is reduced.
- The above standardisation has other benefit. One is simplicity at the physical level. The overall DC foot print is shrinking as a result of being able to share the hardware. 1000 VM per rack, complete with storage + network, is becoming common.
- In the next 3 years, I see customers standardizing the hardware in their DC to commodity servers. Instead of physical firewall, load balancers, storage, etc, they are just buying white box servers. A good example is Super Micro.
- VMware IT Pros have the chance to expand their skills to entire data center, as virtualisation expands and covers the remaining of data center.
Classic Storage will be disrupted.
- The combined effect of SSD and 10G Ethernet have hit the classic dual-controller array. You can see the revenue from the classic products have flatten in the past several years. What’s saving the mid-range is the high-end is being migrated to them. What’s saving the entry level is the demand for storage continues to grow. In all cases, the budget per box has reduced.
- In some deployment, the mid-range and low-end storage have started to disappear. They follow the Top-of-Rack switch, which has been virtualized when customers virtualise their servers. While the replacement process will take years, the snow ball effect has started.
- The above trend has impacted Fibre Channel too. When the actual array is virtualized, there is no need anymore for the fabric. As you can see here, the adoption has been lagging in the past several years. I think that’s a clear sign of declining. The winner apparently is not iSCSI or NFS. It’s a different protocol, which I’d just call distributed storage. For example, VSAN does not use use iSCSI nor NFS. In fact, it is not VMFS either.
- Because the need for a server to have lots of storage, I see the rack-mount form factor making a come back. The converged form-factor is also gaining momentum as it allows for density that matches blade.
- There is a business driver behind all the above. The distributed storage is cheaper. It has lower CAPEX requirements. The regular expansion is also lower.
- As Storage moves into Virtualisation, VMware IT Pros have the chance to expand their skills to cover storage too. I have been working with customer on a 12-node VSAN cluster and it’s certainly more fun than working with classic dual-controller array.
Network will be defined in software
- The trend impacting Server and Storage will also hit Network. Instead of having dedicated and proprietary network equipments, customers are simplifying and standardising at the physical layer.
- The VM network will be decoupled from the physical network. This makes operations easier. No need to wait for weeks for IP address and firewall configuration from central team.
- Every customers that have implemented stretched L2 across DC told me it’s complex. The main reason for stretching L2 is Disaster Recovery. With NSX, you can achieve it without the risk of spanning tree. It is also much cheaper, and this is what customer told me.
- As Network moves into Virtualisation, VMware IT Pros have the chance to expand their skills to cover storage too.
Management will be built-in, not bolted-on
- Once the 3 pillars of data centers (Server, Storage, Network) are virtualised and defined in software, the management has to change. Managing an SDDC is very different to managing a physical DC. I’ve seen how the fundamental has changed.
- In traditional data center, management is typically outside the scope of VMware IT Pro. There is another team, which typically uses The Big 4 (IBM Tivoli, HP Open View, CA Unicenter, BMC) to manage their data center. In SDDC, I see the VMware IT team expands their presence and own this domain too.
All in all, I think the work and career of VMware IT Pro will be more exciting in the next 3 years. I do enjoy discussion with customers where the scope is entire data center, instead of just “server” portion. Have you started architecting the entire DC? I’m sure it’s complex, but do you like the broader scope better? Let me know in the comment below if you think you will be playing the role of SDDC Architect in the next 3 years!