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Viva VMworld!

Despite Hurricane Irene’s best efforts I finally made it to Las Vegas for VMworld late Monday night, and I have to say the joint is jumping. Even without a chunk of the East Coast contingent, as of Monday’s keynote, 19,000 of my fellow geeks had registered for the event, which is starting to feel more like Comdex or Interop in their heyday than a vendor-driven education conference. I, for one, was ecstatic to get back to the days when people were excited about the tech, as opposed to the stock price, and the tech talk spread from the show floor and breakout rooms to the craps tables.

The official word out of VMware was all about building a private cloud, enabling user mobility and application-oriented stuff like a distributed cloudy version of PostgreSQL. These user- and application-oriented things are over the head of a mere storage and infrastructure geek like this intrepid reporter, so I went off to the show floor--correction, solutions exchange--in search of cool products I could actually understand.

My first observation was that VMworld has become the most important event of the year, not just for server and virtualization but also for the storage folks. Storage players big and small were all over the show floor claiming they had the ultimate solution for virtual servers or VDI implementations. Two vendors even went so far as to label their products "storage hypervisors," which is a bit hyperbolic, if you ask me.

We invented the term hypervisor as something that scheduled multiple supervisors. A storage virtualization engine might be a supervisor, but it’s surely not a hypervisor.

The significant news started off with the folks from Brocade. The updates to VCX, which Network Computing's Mike Fratto covered already, mean that Brocade has the full set of data center networking techs (DCB traffic management, Trill-like meshing, port profiles that move with VMs and Fibre Channel over Ethernet convergence), and the pay-as-you-go model makes huge sense for all kinds of temporary and transitional cases in addition to the obvious alignment of costs and revenue for hosting providers.

Virsto has ported its Virsto1 storage acceleration software to VMware from Hyper-V. Virsto1 uses a log-based data layout to smooth the randomization of data access that’s inherent in having multiple workloads on a host and smooths it out, reducing the number of IOPS the disks have to do, which boosts performance, especially if a flash SSD is used to hold the log. They also have a much better snapshot provider than either Microsoft or VMware, so you can keep Virsto snapshots around for data recovery without the performance penalty that keeping multiple VMware snapshots for days would hit you with.

Then I hit the innovation pavilion in the back of the hall. I usually find a few gems hidden in this startup ghetto of standup kiosks, and this year was no exception. One of my favorites from startupville is HotLink SuperVISOR for VMware, which imports Hyper-V, KVM and Xen hosts into the vCenter management console. A HotLink agent in each host translates vCenter management calls into native APIs for that host’s hypervisor. Once the agent is installed, you can add the host to a vCenter server and manage it and its VM guests as if it were an ESXi host. You can even migrate guests between hypervisors by telling vCenter to vMotion them. It’s not a completely live process like vMotion, but it does make the process of V2V conversion fast and easy.

The wow-factor award goes to Real-Status’ HyperGlance network monitoring application, which creates beautiful 3-D representations of your network, servers and the like that put what CA’s Unicenter used to do to shame. HyperGlance collects data from your existing management tools like HP OpenView, becoming a really cool viewer of managers that can alert you to problems across your infrastructure. Or it can just make a great picture for the 6-foot screen in your NOC.

I’m off to more VMworld. Wish you were here.