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A Study in Contrasts

by Administrator on August 10, 2015

tumblr_mjkep4opNl1s86k35o1_500I will probably forego VMworld this year.  I know, I know.  A lot of fan boys and hangers on say that this is the event of the year — a place to go, to see and be seen.  A lot of vendors have been contacting me to find out whether I can visit them at the show while I am there and have seemed somewhat surprised when I told them I probably wouldn’t be in attendance.   Frankly speaking, I don’t want to go to VMworld for a simple reason:  it depresses me — partly because I haven’t really cared about the announcements they have made at the show over the past few years, but also for a very deep seated philosophical reason that I will summarize here.

VMworld features a very large assemblage of vendor sponsors who are represented as part of the VMware ecosystem.  Mostly they are there to “draft” off the marketing spend of VMware, to reduce their spend on advertising and to reach the huge VMware fan boy base.  Even editors of publications and trade press analysts go to the show to drum up customers for advertising and/or service subscriptions.  The whole thing is very Capitalist.  I get that.

What I don’t really get into is the parasitic nature of the VMware ecosystem.  The last time I went to the show, I sat down with an assortment of the 190ish ecosystem “partners” in attendance to learn what they contribute to the wonderful world of VMware infrastructure.   To a one, they told me that their product or service was designed to fix a problem created by VMware.  Imagine that:  an entire vendor ecosystem designed around the notion of shoring up the many flaws of a poorly designed core technology.

Yet, VMware says that the show, the large fan boy base and the vendor ecosystem is testimony to the idea that they are not a product, they are a movement!  (No kidding.  They really say that.  Like some religious cult that fleeces its flock by charging outrageous sums for clearing their IT infrastructure of all of that “reactive mind” stuff  so that the faithful can get “clear” — achieve some nirvanistic state of full virtualization.)

Well, bull-pucky.  There, I said it.

I prefer a show like IBM Edge, in which the vendor leading the event has some top notch core technology (say, z 13 mainframes) and invites all vendors to play in that playground to expand capabilities and enhance the overall value of the platform.  Heck, IBM encourages even those with competing products, services or visions to add to the catalog of features and functions that are already delivered by their products.  In short, IBM has enough guts to open up their platform to innovators and to acknowledge when their business partners find new ways to serve customers.  That is a very different thing from a parasitic ecosystem built on the destruction and decay created by the primary vendor’s core tech.

Case in point:  here are some video interviews I shot at IBM Edge 2015 with some IBM Business Partners.  Frankly, for all of the IBM folks that could have been shoved in front of my lens, I was pleasantly surprised that my IBM handlers drove me to schedule time with some of their Business Partners.  Talk about putting your Business Partner relationships front and center! (Late breaking addition:  Apparently, Business Partners love IBM too, per this article…)

Let’s begin with an interview I did with Catalogic CEO Ed Walsh.  I have known Ed through several senior management positions he has held with highly successful tech companies.  I was getting the impression that he was the guy that VCs would hire to go into a so-so company and spruce it up by getting it on a paying basis so that it would be an attractive acquisition target.  It appears in the case of Catalogic that he has no such exit strategy in mind.  He is about as enthusiastic for the functionality that Catalogic provides as I have ever seen him.  Check out the video to learn more about what Catalogic is doing and how it fits in your IBM infrastructure…



What I see in pushing forward a vendor like Catalogic is IBM giving some love to a partner that enhances the capabilities of their core offerings.  Companies do not need Catalogic to fix a problem created by IBM.  They need a tool to manage data better that just happens to be processed in an IBM infrastructure (as well as others).
Slightly different is the story with Tim Campbell, President of CenterGrid.  Tim is offering a cloud service for managed hosting and, more recently, providing some Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solutions.  You might think that IBM would see Tim as a competitor to their own hot site services, which are more and more becoming cloud enabled.  But, again, the “big tent” view of IBM enables it to see Time through the lens of merchantilism, rather than kammeralism.  (Don’t fret.  These aren’t some newfangled software defined terms that you missed during your Summer hiatus.  It took me a degree in Political Economy to understand what these “isms” mean — basically, the merchantilists viewed a market as an expanding set of opportunities with many winners, while kammeralists saw the market as a zero sum game in which vendor B’s success is vendor A’s loss.)

Anyway, IBM doesn’t concern itself with the competition represented by CenterGrid, but rather it values the complementarity of the partner’s offering to IBM’s own technology.  Most important to IBM, it seems, is the real benefit of its partner’s innovative technology or service to consumers.  That is what an ecosystem is supposed to be about.

CenterGrid, courtesy of some software developed by Thomas Bak’s company (another IBM Business Partner), FrontSafe, enables smaller and medium sized companies to have access to some best-of-breed “enterprise class” data protection software in the form of Spectrum Protect (formerly Tivoli Storage Manager).  Bak’s software puts an easy to use “cloud” front end on Spectrum Protect, enabling its delivery in a multi-tenant model by service providers like CenterGrid.  Here are Campbell and Bak talking about this great offering…




Special thanks to Tim and Thomas for allowing me to tape our interviews.

Bottom line:  I prefer a real vendor conference event, one that advances new ideas and helps me learn how best to apply their technology (and that of their business partners) to my business automation challenges, to a show in which the lead vendor fills the room with noise about being a movement and its ecosystem partners have a simple role:  fixing all of the things that the lead vendor breaks.  I especially prefer an event where the vendor doesn’t have an exclusionary and kammeralist mindset.  VMware is not such a company, from what I can see.  Whatever its original value as a technology for timesharing unicore processors among multiple virtual machines, it is not delivering virtually any of its original value case today.  Add to that an obvious desire (they make no bones about it) to impose its own sort of half-baked authoritarian order in the data center and VMware looks a lot like a less mature IBM circa 1977.  As was the case with IBM, VMware will eventually get their hat handed to them — perhaps sooner than anyone expects.  Until then, though, I will spend my conference-going budget on a useful show, like Edge, where I can talk to truly knowledgeable experts and expand my knowledge via the many innovative business partners that flock to that event.

For the record, I was compensated to attend the Edge event, mainly because I was teaching five sessions at TechEdge.  For participating in live tweets and other social media activities, I was given transport and lodging at the event and a pass to the show.

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