VMworld 2010: Virtualization, The Matrix, and the VMware/Microsoft rivalry

VMware's VMworld has quickly become one of the most important business technology conferences of the year. Held at San Francisco's Moscone Center Monday through Thursday of this week, the conference had its share of highlights and interesting facts.

VMware's VMworld has quickly become one of the most important business technology conferences of the year. Held at San Francisco's Moscone Center Monday through Thursday of this week, the conference had its share of highlights and interesting facts. Here are 10 things seen and heard at VMworld:

The hottest virtualization products at VMworld

1. VMworld drew 17,021 registered attendees, a huge jump over last year's 12,488. This year's list of registered attendees includes 4,000 who had never been to VMworld before and 55 who have been to every single VMworld going back to 2004. These 55 dedicated VMworld attendees sat in a special area close to the keynote stage.

2. The show also attracted more than 200 sponsors and exhibitors, including top-tier sponsors Cisco, Dell, EMC and NetApp. There were 170 breakout sessions for attendees looking to learn about virtualization technology (mostly VMware's).

3. One such session titled "Head-to-Head Comparison: The VMware Advantage Over Microsoft for Building a Private Cloud," was designed to help customers "make fact-based decisions on where to invest." The session, led by VMware executives, provided a completely unbiased (wink, wink) comparison of VMware and Microsoft technologies.

4. Microsoft, meanwhile, took out a full-page ad in USA Today pleading with customers not to sign three-year contracts with VMware. VMware CEO Paul Maritz, a former Microsoft Windows executive, called the ad a "sincere form of flattery," while noting that "For Microsoft to talk about lock-in is a severe case of the pot calling the kettle black." Microsoft, by the way, has claimed that VMworld rules limit competition, but offered demos of Windows Azure to attendees. (Microsoft vs. VMware: Who's better at disaster recovery?)

5. The large keynote stage featured some attempts at humor, with VMware CTO Stephen Herrod and other VMware executives using scooters to move from one side of the stage to the other. There was also a video spoofing the Matrix film, complete with the Oracle explaining that the cloud is everywhere and that our minds are simply "dumb terminals." The video also compared cloud computing to the process of ordering pizza. The bits were well-received by the audience, which seemed to think them funnier than most attempts at vendor comedy.

6. EMC, the owner of VMware, was featured prominently as a sponsor but for the most part EMC's majority ownership stake in VMware was not discussed. EMC positioned itself as just another VMware partner, albeit a large one, with a sign on the technology exhibition floor that said "EMC: #1 in storage for VMware."

7. The show floor featured some wackiness, as always. The vendor Kingston Technology hosted Guitar Hero contests; CA's booth featured women on stilts; and VMware's giant booth took a page from Apple's playbook with a "Genius Bar."

8. The network powering VMworld lab sessions featured a 10 Gigabit core infrastructure; links to Terremark and Verizon facilities in Florida and Virginia; 244TB of useable storage; 352 servers; 736 CPU sockets; and 3,072 CPU cores. Overall, 125,000 virtual machines were expected to be deployed during the conference, to power 12,500 or so labs.

9. 3Par, a storage vendor that is the subject of a billion-dollar bidding war between HP and Dell, had plenty of money to splash around at VMworld. 3Par promoted storage virtualization at its large booth and gave away a 3D television.

10. VMware said it has 190,000 customers, "from AstraZeneca to Zappos," and noted that 2009 was the first year in which the number of server applications deployed on virtualized infrastructure exceeded the number of applications deployed on physical servers. "There are now more copies of traditional operating systems that no longer see the hardware than those that do," Maritz said.

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

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