San Francisco has been overrun. The sidewalks, alleyways and BART stations are packed with virtual geeks and nerds in physical form, congesting an already confined traffic system, confusing the city populace and most likely, annoying the hell out of them. This is VMworld at the Moscone Center in San Francisco and I’m one of the geeks adding to the problem.
This is my first personal appearance at VMworld and I was shocked at how many people are here. Well, how many guys are here. It’s like a Will Wheaton party. The Moscone Center and the adjacent Mariott hotel are hosting the events and it’s like nothing I’ve ever been to.
It’s one giant tech-gasm. It took me a couple hours to venture through the vendor festival downstairs at Moscone North. The amount of sessions with experts, labs and tech material can be overwhelming. If you’ve never done this before, plan ahead and try to schedule half the day. Every virtualization admin, engineer, or whatever you are needs to do this at least once. It’s something to behold.
I’m going to write about some of my personal highlights from the first couple days. I’m not going to list too much detail about some of VMware’s announcements, that stuff is everywhere. For instance, VMware is now offerring EVO RAIL and RACK. EVO is short for Evolution and RAIL means a hyper-converged, out-of-the-box-ready-to-go VMware environment. RAIL is a 4 ESX host container with VMware’s VSAN for storage. It is compute, networking and storage in one box, thus ‘hyper-converged’. The customer will need their own 10GB switch to complete the infrastructure. VMware is not supplying the hardware as they are partnering up with anyone who thinks this is a good idea.
RAIL is scalable and there is a bigger version called RACK. In any case, this is still based on VSAN, soon in version 2.0, for storage.
NEW MARKETING NAMES
As if we don’t have enough to keep track of, VMware is rebranding almost all of their stuff. I really don’t like this, but these decisions aren’t about the guys in the trenches, it’s about the sales guys talking to the C-Level guys and impressing them with cool names. So, all the vCloud stuff will be called Air and all the monitoring and automation software is now Realize. For instance, the vRealize suite will contain vCOPS, VCAC, Log Insight and the IT Business Suite. I hope VMware Realizes this is bumming me out as I screw up these names for the next 3 years.
SOUTHBOUND AND DOWN
VMware is serious about moving networking southbound from the physical layer to the virtual one. Very serious. This is going to be a political minefield between the Cisco and VMware professionals and the managers inbetween them. The presenters know this too and depending on what side they are from determines the reasons, as they see them, for moving the network intellegence into a VMware controlled container.
The network guys who presented the NSX certification track were Cisco veterans. Part of the presentation was justifying the NSX certification by bringing up engineers who had helped create the NSX track and talk about how great it was to have the intelligent networking pieces virtualized. I found this fascinating because it was meant to ease the anxiety for Cisco professionals more than get the VMware pros excited.
Another way that VMware is trying to gently nudge the Cisco engineers over to their certification is by creating a fast track to earn the NSX designation. If you have a Cisco CCNA or CCDA that is current, you can just go take the NSX Professional test and get the VCP-NV certification. This is a smart move because the only experience the Cisco pros are missing is how to build virtual networks, which is easy compared to the networking intelligence needed to earn the Cisco certifications. VMware has their own protocols in NSX, but these are mostly overlays that allow other protocols to transverse layer 2 and expand networking beyond the physical limitations.
Now, the other side. In a presentation about NSX in the real world, the VMware VXLAN protocol was discussed. In this particular real world, the VMware pros and the network team do not communicate well. In fact, it was presented that if you submit requirements for the physical network, it most likely will be done wrong and delay your project. Ouch. The upside to the VXLAN protocol is that it requires only one VLAN on the physical layer, thus very little interaction with the network team. It was presented as a real advantage to the VMware engineers who could, using VXLAN, create data flow east-west (inside the virtual infrastructure) and north-south (north being the physical layer, south being the virtual layer). It was not mentioned how the network team could monitor this traffic or, you know, be brought into the loop. VXLAN is the protocol to further separate VMware from physical networking because, you know, VXLAN traffic is none of the network team’s business. That isn’t the best way to get all teams excited about southbound network intelligence.
I am excited about this and although it is meant mostly for much bigger enterprises than mine, I will get this certification just so I can communicate more effectively with the network team.