VMware show opens arms to Xen, Microsoft

Conference goes from 'niche show' to 'madhouse'

Attendees at VMware's VMworld in Los Angeles this week are getting more than a user conference; this is an industry-focused event aimed at educating IT professionals about the capabilities and benefits of virtualization, whether the technology is rooted in VMware or in offerings from competitors such as Microsoft or open source Xen.

"VMworld is definitely getting big," says David Payne, CTO at Xcedx, a virtualization consulting firm based in Minneapolis. "It went from being a niche show when this technology was still emerging to now -- I don't even know what to expect this year. I hear it's going to be a madhouse."

If numbers are any indication, Payne may be right. VMware says that it expects twice as many people as last year -- about 6,000 -- to attend the event that runs Tuesday through Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It's also expecting to nearly double the number of exhibitors, jumping from about 50 last year to nearly 90 this year.

All the major virtualization vendors are in attendance; Microsoft, XenSource and Virtual Iron have booths. Microsoft is a gold sponsor for the second year in a row.

The event, which debuted in 2003, is weighted heavily toward hands-on labs in which attendees can get a real-world feel for VMware technology. But the show also includes a number of educational sessions and discussions taking a broader industry perspective on how virtualization technology is evolving.

There are also quite a few VMware customers, such as H&R Block, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Nationwide Insurance, talking about their first-hand experiences with virtualization.

"The focus of VMworld is really on two things. One is customers hosting sessions where they talk about how they used virtualization to solve various problems. The other is giving customers the chance to experience [virtualization] technology hands-on," says Raghu Raghuram, vice president of platform products at VMware.

"This is certainly not a Virtualization 101 conference anymore," he adds. "This is about, 'Hey, virtualization is a mainstay of your business. How are you going to do disaster recovery, business continuity, desktop virtualization?'"

News announcements planned at the show illustrate the move beyond simple slicing and dicing of x86 hardware for server consolidation.

VMware, for example, is unveiling Lab Manager, the first product built on technology VMware acquired from Akimbi. Lab Manager integrates with VMware Virtual Infrastructure to extend its virtualization capabilities into software development.

Lab Manager pools virtual resources and enables software developers to configure test and development environments as needed. These software configurations are captured and stored so that developers can easily use and resue them without needing IT intervention, VMware executives say.

Lab Manager will compete with products from companies such as Surgient and VMLogix. Bangalore, India-based VMLogix is making its U.S. debut at VMworld, unveiling VMLogix LabManager, which like VMware's Lab Manager, provides a virtualized environment for software test and development.

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