VMworld 2012 gets underway next week in San Francisco and it promises to be an interesting event (again), given internal changes going on at VMware, competitive threats and ongoing industry trends in areas such as desktop virtualization and software-defined networking.

First the internal goings-on. EMC last month announced there will be a change at the top at VMware. As Bloomberg reported on July 18:

EMC Corp. (EMC) said Pat Gelsinger will succeed Paul Maritz as chief executive officer of VMware Inc. (VMW), giving new management the task of pursuing new products and stepping up growth at the software maker under its control. Maritz will return to EMC, which owns 79 percent of VMware, as chief strategist, Palo Alto, California-based VMware said yesterday in a statement. Gelsinger, chief operating officer for information infrastructure products at EMC, takes over Sept. 1.”

Reports are that Maritz will share the stage with Gelsinger at the event. Gelsinger certainly has plenty of experience on the big stage at EMC World (although I’ve never seen him speak in person) but I was always impressed with the way Maritz handled the role. He was a master at explaining VMware products at a level that was just technical enough that it didn’t seem like you were getting hit with a marketing pitch – even though you were. At any rate, given Gelsinger doesn’t technically take over until Sept. 1, I’m not sure how much we’ll be able to read into how his remarks characterize the direction he intends to take VMware – whatever plans are laid out at the event must have been in place for months.

Another change that will be looming over VMworld is the latest version of Microsoft’s hypervisor is set to become generally available on Sept. 4 as part of Windows Server 2012.  As a Network World blogger Mark Bowker reports:

“Windows Server 2012 ships with the third release of Hyper-V and makes it easy for IT to implement and quickly achieve value. VMware will be increasingly challenged by Microsoft with improving functionality and a lower price point that IT will not be able to ignore.”

Bowker says Hyper-V raises some questions for VMware, such as how the company will guide customers who want to deploy both VMware and Hyper-V and whether VMware will make any licensing changes that may urge Microsoft to include more management functions with Hyper-V.

These are legitimate questions and VMware certainly isn’t the first to have to deal with them when faced with a Microsoft challenge. Microsoft has a long history of taking functions that others offer as standalone software packages, incorporating them into Windows and giving them away for “free” (unless you count whatever you pay for Windows, of course, but never mind that). I’m dating myself, but I can remember when companies sold TCP/IP stacks, which have long since been incorporated into Windows and just about every other OS. Likewise, Netscape Navigator was doing pretty well before Microsoft incorporated Internet Explorer into Windows. For VMware to stay ahead of the curve, it makes sense to play up the management aspects of its offering, as Bowker suggests.

You can also expect to continue to hear a fair amount about how virtualization technology is extending beyond servers, such as with software-defined networking. As The VARguy reports:

“VMware is in the process of buying Nicira for about $1.2 billion. The move seeks to make VMware the ‘industry leader in software-defined networking (SDN).’ Early Nicira adopters include AT&T, eBay and Rackspace. Nicira is the latest example of virtualization moving beyond servers and extending toward converged data center networks.

Another reason for the focus on SDNs is that things are heating up on the standards front, with increased interest (from companies including NTT Communications) on the OpenFlow protocol that helps make it happen.

Desktop virtualization is also likely to get significant billing, as it did last year. In addition to fleshing out its own virtual desktop strategy, VMware will see partners such as F5 Networks and Riverbed Technology showcase acceleration and other products that help improve performance in virtual desktop implementations.

Come back next week and we’ll see next week how well these predictions pan out.

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