VMworld 2008: Day 2 Review – Virtually Anything is Possible

VMWORLD 2008: DAY 2 REVIEW – VIRTUALLY ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE

VMworld is not just a trade show about virtualization, it uses virtual technologies and Web 2.0 technologies in a way I’ve never seen before. Here’s an example:

Blogging:

IMG_0145Not only is blogging encouraged, but it is honored. There is a special set of tables in the keynote auditorium for bloggers to set up their laptops for blogging. Or in my case, I was Twittering about the keynote with my iPhone. Indeed, during yesterday’s keynote with with VMware CEO Paul Maritz, the announcer invited attendees to use Twitter to send in their questions. The person next to me was from Denmark and didn’t understand what I was doing. He had never heard of Twitter, so I sent him to Twitter.com. By the way, my real-time “Tweets” (noun form of Twitter) on this show can be found at this link. Note, they’ll appear in reverse chronological order, most recent at the top.

Podcasting:

IMG_0153John Troyer of VMware, blogger and podcaster extraordinaire, was doing several podcasts live from the Communities Lounge at the Solutions Exchange on the show floor. John is very involved in VMware’s blogger community and end user communities. He has lots of community management experience. Here you see John interviewing user moderators from VMware’s communities. You’ll find John at the VMTN Blog and his podcasts here.

Virtual Pavilion:

MainFloorWhile this is a show about virtualization, there is also a virtual show going on at the same time. Eric Nielsen, VMware’s Director of Web Communities showed me around the virtual, online pavilion.

You can access it directly from the VMworld.com website, or from here. It is a two dimensional virtual world that an attendee can navigate through and visit various rooms.

As an attendee navigates around the Virtual Pavilion he or she can see other attendees, participate in contests and games, gain points for answering questions on multiple choice questions, etc. This virtual navigation system is a 3rd party module for Clearspace, the social networking technology that VMworld.com uses. There are even “Expert Sessions” non-synchronous “events” — talks that you need not be present to hear — where a speaker will provide audio, video, content or a whitepaper which is then attached to a forum. The expert will visit daily for the next two weeks to answer any questions.

restroomThe Virtual Pavilion also features 15 “hidden rooms” where you can find special clues, quiz answers, and secret codes for a free t-shirt at the Communities Lounge. One of these hidden rooms is the Restroom, which itself has a portal to a hidden room.

Eric manages VMworld.com year round. It is active not just during the semi-annual shows, but throughout the year. Various Partners have “booths” here. Can you find the “hidden room” in the Dell booth?

Blogs:

And as I mentioned before, the VMworld.com website features attendee blogs as well, found here.

Thanks for coming along.

BillPetro.com

VMworld 2008: a Veritable Verdant Venture (Green)

TIGVMWORLD 2008: A VERITABLE VERDANT VENTURE

“Green, that’s what it’s all about,” Larry says as he shows me the eco bag that TIG is handing out at the VMworld 2008 show. Many of the booths say “Green IT” right on their signs. Virtualization can contribute to Energy Efficient IT in a number of ways, not the least of which is consolidation and containment of servers, thus reducing power requirements, but also the associated savings in data center cooling.

From the initial registration for the conference, there has been an emphasis on Green. During the registration process, there is a discussion of transportation options to Las Vegas and their carbon footprint implications.

Upon arrival, the notebook that attendees received comes with a pen made from recycled cardboard and a wooden clip.

Timbuk2BagIn the VMware Store on premise, there is a Timpuk2 messenger bag for sale. It’s a special limited edition of 75, made from the recycled banners from last year’s VMworld 2007 in San Francisco, available in blue, black, orange and green. The beanies are made from recycled cotton, and the polo shirts from recycled polyester. No new polyesters need give their life to make a new polo shirt.

Thanks for coming along.

BillPetro.com

VMworld 2008: Day 1 Keynote

Paul MaritzVMWORLD 2008: DAY 1 KEYNOTE

Following yesterday’s opening event, both the Technology Exchange and Partner Day, the conference started in earnest today with a keynote by Paul Maritz, VMware President and CEO.

Paul is quite an articulate speaker, sounding both like a savvy businessman and an erudite professor. For many, his accent is difficult to place, is it Australian, South African? Turns out he was born in Zimbabwe, next door to South Africa, but he went to school in Cape Town, South Africa. Someone remarked that he pronounces some words like Sean Connery. Paul did work at University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Sean Connery grew up in nearby Edinburgh, Scotland.

Back to the keynote, Paul amplified many of the concepts introduced and announced yesterday, specifically by drawing on the past to explain where VMware is going in the future. I found the history a good review of many of the events I’d witnessed in my own long career with computing, and a fascinating basis for describing where he sees the company going, as well as a foundation for the many announcements this week. How did he do this?

Two Models

He went back to the ’60s and ’70s (mainframes) and outlined the contrast between the Centralized vs. De-centralized models of computing. While he did not say so, the industry has swung between them several times over the last 30 years. He pointed out that we initially saw mainframes in the early days, and the proliferation of PCs in the ’80s. The early ’90s saw the rise of x86 Servers as well as the rise of the Client/Server model.

A Third Alternative

He quipped that it’s ironic that he is now profiting from his previous sins in promoting the Client/Server model, which got us into a world of hurt so that we now seek another path, the best of both the Centralized and the De-centralized models. The advent of the Web in the mid-’90s offered the promise of this. He paid tribute to the founders of VMware, who started the company ten years ago back in 1998.

VMware’s Initial Offerings

He described VMware’s early efforts with both VMware Workstation (on the client, or De-centralized side in 1999) as well as the early VMware Server (GSX, on the Centralized side in 2000.) He pointed out that many other companies are currently virtualizing on the Centralized (server) side, but reminded us that VMware has done both sides, but raised the bar in 2004 with the introduction of VMware Infrastructure, a higher level of abstraction than either Server or Client side virtualization.

Paul pointed out that the “Best of Both” on the Web is now more promising with a variety of new (Web 2.0) technologies like AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML), Ruby on Rails, and Python. 2007 saw the launch of VMware’s Fusion, virtualization of Windows on the Macintosh and the popularity of Cloud computing.

It’s The Platform

At this point, I reflected that during my career I’d seen software engineers write to whatever the leading “platform” was at the time. In the ’80s it was Unix, and particularly SunOS (Solaris). The virtuous cycle had the platform supporting applications that led to more volume… which made the platform more viable. With the rise in popularity of Windows, it became the platform of choice. In the mid-’90s it was Java, with the promise of “Write Once, Run Anywhere” across a variety of devices. But last year, it became clear to me, especially following VMworld 2007 in San Francisco, that VMware was becoming the “platform”. Both the Press and the Analysts “got it,” and Wall Street saw a huge jump in VMware’s stock price following the ESXi announcement and others.

The New Platform

VDC-OS So, what’s the new “platform”? Paul explained the Virtual Datacenter OS, or VDC-OS. It is a way to support a variety of current popular “platforms” line .Net, Windows, Linux, Java, Software As A Service… with Application vServices that provide Availability, Security, and Scalability. This rests upon Infrastructure vServices called vCompute, vStorage, and vNetwork… as well as Cloud vServices. These in turn live on either the On-premise cloud, or an Off-premise Cloud (for additional resources.) Meanwhile, all of this can be managed by vCenter (the rebranded Virtual Center management framework) which handles both Application Management at the top end and Infrastructure Management at the backend.

To this end, many announcements fit into this new, higher level of abstraction. Once again, VMware raises the bar.

Thanks for coming along,

BillPetro.com

VMworld in Vegas

VMworldVMWORLD IN VEGAS

This year’s VMworld, at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas September 15-18 looks to be the place where all things virtual will occur. Last year’s event in San Francisco attracted 10,000 attendees, this year’s conference in Las Vegas expects 14,000. The VMworld.com website is using Jive Software’s Clearspace social networking platform — enabling attendees to participate in discussion threads, send and receive private messages, create their schedule online, and even blog from it.

I’ll be blogging from this website daily, as well as Twittering more frequently from the conference about what’s hot from the keynotes and sessions.

Thanks for coming along.

BillPetro.com

iPhone 3G: 2 months on, post-hype

iPHONE 3.0: 2 MONTHS ON, POST-HYPE

I recently bought my son a new iPhone 3G, a month after they first went on sale, and buying it then was a bit less painful than buying it the first day. The first day was like attending the premier of Batman: The Dark Knight. And as the Dark Knight has made $500M as of this writing, Apple is still selling a lot of iPhones.

So, what is the experience of the iPhone 3G, now 8 weeks later, after the initial thrill of excitement, post-hype, after the reality distortion sphere has dissipated?

Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly

The Good

This launch has been very good for Apple in terms of revenue and market share growth. “iPhone 3G had a stunning opening weekend,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, in a statement.

  • iPhone sales statistics:

1M first weekend

3M in the first month

8M iPhones? At this time, Apple had manufactured at least 5,649,000 iPhone 3Gs. Added to the 2.4 million first-generation iPhones the company reported it had sold in the first six months of 2008, that means that Apple has manufactured more than 8 million iPhones this year. In 2007, Apple sold 3.71 million iPhones.

Overall, the experience of buying an iPhone 3G, while in high demand initially, was pleasant and made easier by Apple’s convenient iPhone availability widget.

  • AppStore:

There were 60 million downloads in the first 30 days, admittedly mostly for free apps, but with about $30 million in revenue, and a runway of 3 million more new iPhones out there to run them on.

The iPhone is a small part of Apple’s business — only 5% of its overall sales in the latest quarter. Macintosh computers and iPods typically generate 75% of Apple’s revenue. But iPhones are hugely profitable. By some estimates, Apple stands to make between $100 and $400 on each new iPhone sold, depending on the model (8 or 16GB) and wireless carrier.

Although Apple has less than 1 percent of the overall cell phone market, it has 19.2 percent share in U.S. smart phones, which pack more functions. That put it ahead of Palm, which had 13.4 percent, but far behind RIM’s 44.5 percent, according to research firm IDC. And the less than successful launch of Apple’s MobileMe “cloud” offering has made predictions of the demise of RIM’s BlackBerry seem rather premature.

iPhone 3G imageThe Bad

  • iPhone 2.0 software

While there are many new features in the long awaited 2.0 firmware update, available on the first generation iPhone as well, there seem to be a number of steps backward as well. Some of the iPhone core applications are less stable, with the Mobile Safari crashing regularly when it didn’t do that with the 1.0 software. There are still some persistent and vexing features missing: copy and paste within and across applications or global search — it’s available only in Phone/Contacts.

Additionally, core applications have shown sluggish performance, slow typing, as well as clunky scrolling and Safari rotation. The 2.0.2 version update of software has addressed some problems, but not all.

  • 1.0 Apps

While there are many fine 3rd party applications available in the AppStore, they are by definition 1.0 versions. Because there is no Apple-supported universal beta or try-and-by program in the AppStore, these apps don’t have the testing that most usual applications enjoy. Some are quite immature. Many of them are unstable and crash regularly. And when they do, they can lock up the entire iPhone. Steve Jobs said he’s look into it.

  • Where are the AppStore “killer apps?”

Applications that one would expect, that are common on other platforms like Palm’s Treo or Windows Mobile phones are still missing in action on the iPhone. Here are the two most obvious:

Office documents: while you can view Microsoft Office and Mac iWork documents, you can neither edit nor create them on the iPhone.

Turn-by-turn navigation: the GPS feature on the iPhone 3G is very nice — though a battery killer — and on the iPhone’s native Google Maps is wonderful to behold. But Google Maps directions are not known for their accuracy. And while it works in a pinch, it is not the same as turn-by-turn navigation. While a number of popular vendors have mentioned intentions or successful porting to the iPhone, there have been no release announcements or available products at this time.

  • Suggested Apps

Here are a couple of potential Apps that I know would be immensely popular:

Typing shortcuts: the iPhone keyboard does not allow one to type as fast as on a physical keyboard like the “thumb boards” on the Treo, BlackBerry, or other smartphones. And while it does have an auto-correction feature called “keyboard dictionary”, I’d like to see the availability of an app that does either predictive typing (T9) or “macro” shortcuts — think “.sig” for your signature.

Speed navigation: moving around the iPhones apps mean a trip through the “Home” button before moving to the next app. And drilling through menus even within an application can take a lot of time. Changing email accounts takes 4 “clicks”, toggling BlueTooth or 3G on/off also takes 4, email account modifications take more. Either a gesturing system or an imaginative use of the “hard buttons” would be greatly welcomed.

The Ugly

Here are a couple of things that detracted from the huge media event of 8 weeks ago, both of which persist.

  • MobileMe

This long awaited enhancement to the dusty .Mac service got off to a rocky start the first day, lifted off, crashed, was rumored to be fixed, but alas, no. Apple has as much as admitted it wasn’t ready, and no longer promotes it as it was originally stated “Exchange for the rest of us.”

Steve Jobs said in an Apple internal memo in August:

It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store. We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.

This appeared to be a back-end infrastructure problem, at least on the first day during what has been called the iPocalypse. Why Apple did not take advantage of VMware Fusion technology to avoid the server meltdown earlier, is hard to understand. But MobileMe still isn’t performing as expected. iPhone updates “to the cloud” is occasionally near instantaneous, if you have “Push” turned on in Settings — another real battery killer — but synchronization with iCal/Address Book is at best 15 minutes out.

To that end, Apple has twice offered extensions to users’ annual contract, first one month, the second time two months.

  • Battery Life

My personal biggest complaint is the battery life. While Steve Job’s launch said the battery in the 3G is superior to the 1st generation, that has not been my experience, nor that of most of the people I know and correspond with. While it may be the case that the battery is better than the 1st Gen when both devices are in standby mode, the new iPhone 3G has capabilities that the 1st doesn’t, and one or more of those may be the culprit. Here are some examples:

GPS radio: I’ve seen this feature run a device dry, even when plugged into a car lighter charger. I now usually leave “Location Services” off.

3G radio: AT&T’s coverage maps is, shall we say, wildly optimistic. I live in the coverage area, but only get one 1 bar. Not all locations in the country get coverage, I usually leave this off.

“Push” email: Microsoft Exchange, and even MobileMe support pushing email to the iPhone, but this can run down the battery faster. I only push Exchange.

3rd party apps: some of these are location-aware — which turns on the GPS to find your location — others apps connect to Web servers. I suspect some buggy versions are a battery culprit.

Bottom line: is it a keeper? Sure. I trust that upcoming firmware upgrades address some of these issues, more stable apps are less sloppy in their use of memory and battery, and that some killer apps do come over the horizon.

Thanks for coming along.

BillPetro.com

iPhone 3G Launch: a Tale of Two Cities and Two Vendors

iPHONE 3G LAUNCH: A TALE OF TWO CITIES AND TWO VENDORS

Remember the old Far Side cartoon that shows a couple thinking about each other — with the commentary “Same planet, two different worlds”? That was the sense of the first day the iPhone 3G went on sale in the US.

It seemed that the two partners — AT&T, the exclusive carrier in the US, and Apple, the creator of the new device — had no idea of what the other was doing. AT&T referred customers to Apple, and vice-versa. Most of the AT&T stores sold out of stock early the first day, Apple had stock well into the evening. This is the story of the AT&T Store in Colorado Springs and the Apple Store in Denver, Colorado.

Folks started showing up at the AT&T store in Colorado Springs around noon the day before the new iPhone 3G went on sale. Calls to the store the day ahead said they were prepared, following their experience selling the iPhone 1.0 a year earlier. However, they sold out an hour and a half after opening. Police appeared when the natives became restless after they heard that they couldn’t get a “rain check” for additional phones that would come later, but could happily order and pay for a device they’d get in 7 to 10 days. When asked, the store manager said that the Police were there for her protection. She said this out loud?

The more popular 16GB device sold out early, to a person who had been standing in line since 4:45 am that morning. A number of folks where there to get their 1st generation iPhone “unbricked” as they’d installed the pre-release version of iPhone 2.0 software the day before and their device was now unusable. Alas, no joy for them as the manager didn’t know what a “brick” was.

Some of the iPhone Phans headed north to Denver, to the main Apple store in Colorado. Their experience was very different indeed. While the line was quite long, the Apple employees made the wait fun. Indeed, while waiting and participating in the “gallows humor” associated with such a long line, the following table of comparisons between the two stores was developed:

AT&T, Colorado Springs

Apple Store, Denver

Inventory

Sold out by 9:30 AM

In stock until late at night

1st in line

12:30 PM day before

5:30 AM morning of

Number in line at 8 AM

125

275

Security

At store opening

Through the Mall

“How many in stock?”

“We don’t know”

“We have enough”

Last person to get 16GB

In line at 4:45 AM

All day

Snacks

0

Water, candy, chips, nuts

Answers

None

Lots

Can you fix my “brick“?

“What’s a brick?”

“Sure”

Workers on hand

10

100

Doors between customers

Locked

Cheers

Activations per minute

0.5

1

The Apple employees came by from time to time with a cart filled with soda, water, candy, chips, and nuts. Medical application of chocolate can be a strong palliative and it appeared with abundance. The Apple Store is located in the Cherry Hill Mall in Denver, the most high-end mall in the state and a busy mall on any day. Other provender could be obtained by foraging, including pizza and Mrs. Fields cookies.

The mood in the rather long line was high — this was a media event. Nothing like it has occurrence except a movie debut or a new music album release… or a new video game release could compare. But this was just a phone — or was it? Comments like this got mock stern looks from the Apple employees working the lines an comments like “You, out of line!” Regular nervous requests to these employees of whether they’d have the coveted 16GB model were met with “We have enough.”

As people got to the front of the line, some having waited for 7 hours, they’d be escorted into the Apple Store. These entrances were accompanied by cheers from those in line behind them knowing that their turn was coming up next. Ben was the Apple employee extraordinaire who performed this duty with good humor and grace. Inside the store there were a number of stations where numerous orange t-shirted Apple employees quickly and efficiently processed and fulfilled the order. They would ask a series of questions to understand any special circumstances. If you had a special AT&T contract though, they’d have to forward you over to the “specialists” at the Genius Bar. If, for example, you had a special company discount on your AT&T contract they could not apply the new iPhone 3G to that contract. However, they were MOST careful to make sure people left the store with a new iPhone — much more motivated than an AT&T employee — and made numerous calls to insure that. A suggestion to a customer that they could buy it more efficiently with the discount applied if they went to the AT&T store elicited a “been there, done that, they’re sold out” (see above) did not daunt them, and they found a way to address the special need. This was customer service par excellance.

Is it the iPocalypse?

The first day of the iPhone launch has been called the iPocalypse as device activation often failed, especially earlier in the day. This was caused by a “perfect storm” of several factors, all on the same day.

  • To minimize jailbreaking 3G iPhones — unlocking devices to run on other carriers, a common occurrence on an estimated 20% of the 1st generation iPhones — AT&T and Apple required that all new 3G iPhones be activated in the store before departure. And this practice was to be carried out worldwide, as the new device was being sold in countries other than the US. This put a considerable strain on Apple’s iTunes servers, which did the activation.
  • The new iTunes and iPhone 2.0 software (discussed in my previous article) were released on this day for download from Apple’s servers.
  • The Apple AppStore debuted on the same day, putting an enormous strain on Apple’s servers as people downloaded many new iPhone apps.
  • MobileMe, the new incarnation of the .Mac service, debuted on the same day putting an incredible strain on Apple’s servers.

Are you seeing the trend here?

I’ll discuss this more in my next article: the iPhone 3G experience, post-hype, some 8 weeks later.

Thanks for coming along,

BillPetro.com