Monday, October 22, 2007

A Day of VMWare Seminars

I recently spent a day at VMWare seminars on server and desktop virtualization.  I knew going in that it would be mostly a sales pitch, but I hoped to learn a few things from the events.

It turned out that there were a couple of hours of good content.  Unfortunately, it took all day to get it out.

A few highlights-

One thing I am really tired of hearing is that you can "deploy servers in minutes instead of days or weeks".  Although that gem was trotted out repeatedly during the day, it was effectively rebutted by their own "customer success story" presenter.  An IT manager from LL Bean shared his experience with their multi-year VMWare migration and deployment.  He stated clearly that deploying servers takes  a minimum of a few hours, even if an appropriate VM is available for the task.  It turns out that he actually patches, updates, and optimizes the VMs for the specific task before deployment- and also considers network configuration and other related issues.  At least some of VMWare's customers have a clue.

One of the desktop deployment scenarios mentioned was letting developers and QAs deploy their own systems, which will be safe because of some sort of "fencing".  That might be true if the virtual machine library is always up to date and developers never need to add weird software you've never heard of or vetted.  And Unicorns will prance around the development lab, too.

At one point, while touting the new, lightweight 3i devices, it was mentioned that reducing the footprint between the guest and the hardware would contribute to a more secure virtual environment because [truth alert] the Service Console exposes over half of the known vulnerabilities in VMWare deployments and a lighter virtual environment would expose a smaller attack target.  That was refreshing.

A couple of cool things are on the horizon-

VMWare is going to integrate a patch management system into Virtual Center, initially it will only patch the host and hypervisor, but eventually it will also be able to patch Windows guest OSes, maybe even others.

Also, distributed power management is being developed which will allow servers to be redistributed and put into and out of standby to minimize power consumption.  I don't think I'll be seeing the benefits of this feature in small business, but it is still pretty slick.

As always, I think virtualization can be a great asset- if deployed properly.