Unlike years past, VMware won't make end-user computing vaporware announcements at VMworld 2013. Instead, the company will focus on technologies that can realistically be released as products within a year.
That's good news for IT pros in the VMware community, who have grown tired of the hype these demos produce, only to wait years before a product reaches general availability.
Maybe we've told the world about products before we should've.
end-user computing evangelist, VMware
"Two years is a ton of time in IT," said Matt Kosht, director of IT at an Alaska-based utility company. "It gets to the point that if it's so far off and doesn't help me in the next 12 to 18 months, well, who cares, because we've probably changed strategies or moved on to a product that's available."
In contrast, the technologies Citrix talks about during its annual user conference, Synergy, typically become an available product shortly thereafter, Kosht said.
"With VMware, [technology announcements are] not a tangible thing you can plan on," he added.
For its part, VMware understands that and believes using its annual user conference to showcase products and features that will be available within a reasonable timeframe is a better approach going forward, the company said.
"On the one hand they have to show they are moving the ball forward as an innovative company, but they have to caution that by not showing their hand too early," said Brian Knudston, a solutions architect with Vital Support Systems, a VMware partner located in the Midwest. "It's a tough balance, and they have to determine whether or not showing stuff two or three years out is worth it, because no matter how much you caveat something, people get caught up in the excitement of it."
One example is AppBlast, discussed during VMworld 2011 as a product, but one year later, it was still unavailable. It became a feature tacked on to View 5.2 this year. Another example is Project Octopus, also revealed in 2011. Knudston said he is guilty of getting caught up in the excitement of Octopus, an enterprise-grade file-sharing product. It was called Horizon Data when it was finally released this year.
"They are showing the interface on stage, it has a product name and logo, and I know it's a long way off because it's in tech preview," he said. "But then I'm the guy on Twitter asking when it'll be available over and over. You just get caught up."
Other examples of VMware showing off technology before it was ready for prime time include mobile virtualization in 2008, which finally came to fruition this year in Horizon Mobile.
In 2012, the company previewed the virtual machine communication capabilities that are still in development for Socialcast, which will play a larger role in the Horizon Suite going forward. Unfortunately, the ability to make infrastructure components trusted actors and participants in a social network is still years away, said Ben Goodman, VMware's end-user computing evangelist.
VMware admits to getting ahead of itself
The change in direction began at VMworld 2012, when VMware showed off the Horizon Suite and Horizon Mobile, two products the company got out the door in early 2013, Goodman said.
"There's a reflex with the whole VMware community watching," Goodman said. "You have to understand that we're seeing all the cool things being worked on in our research and development, and we want to tell the world what they are working on. Sometimes, maybe we've told the world about products before we should've."
This year's end-user computing previews will focus on "filling in the details" around the company's new Horizon Suite, which combines Mirage's physical image-layering capabilities, View for virtual desktops and Workspace, which extends access and identity for a range of applications to mobile devices and HTML5-compliant browsers, Goodman said.
At VMworld 2013, VMware will also discuss the pending changes to its strategy around Horizon Mobile and iOS 7, which will discontinue app wrapping and downplay the significance of the secure-container approach the company had used.
That is welcome news to the VMware community, because IT shops are asking about how to set up an application delivery infrastructure where the device (and who owns it) is irrelevant, Knudston said.
IT shops don't move at the speed of vendors, so focusing on shorter-term projects makes sense.
"We're not rolling out new features to our clients immediately," said Mike Davis, managing director at Broadleaf Services, an IT solutions provider based in Burlington, Mass. "So anything revealed during VMworld is something we can find out about later during a VTUG [Virtualization Technology User Group] or VMUG [VMware User Group] and take the time to evaluate and see if it makes sense."
Horizon Suite is a perfect example of that. Most of Davis' View customers haven't even begun evaluating the other pieces in Horizon Suite, even though many of them acknowledge that mobile and Software as a Service apps will play a larger role in their long-term strategy.
Despite a more conservative approach, expect VMware to show off a few things they are working on at VMworld 2013, but with the caveat they might be a few years away.