VMworld always packs a wallop with new and interesting revelations, but this year's event included some positively seismic moves. As it turned out, there were a few laughs to be had as well.
Among its many VMworld announcements, VMware changed CEOs, ditched a widely loathed virtualisation licensing program, bundled its cloud software stack as a single product and unveiled technology that lets IT manage employees' personal iPhones and iPads.
Outgoing CEO Paul Maritz was in rare form, delivering a series of zingers in his characteristic deadpan style. Incoming CEO Pat Gelsinger, who at one point during the week found himself on the pitcher's mound at AT&T Park during a NetApp party, told VMworld attendees VMware would remain independent despite signs that parent EMC is pulling it closer into the fold.
If there was a theme to this year's VMworld, it was surprises mixed with humor, and following are some examples of how executives pulled off this balance -- to the delight of those who witnessed it.
1. Ditching of vRAM
vRAM, which debuted last July with vSphere 5, was as popular as athlete's foot with VMware customers because it raised licensing costs and complexity. So when Gelsinger, in his first official act as CEO, announced that vRAM would be discontinued, VMworld attendees should have felt a surge of relief.
"Last year we created a four-letter dirty word called vRAM. We are now striking that word from our vocabulary," Gelsinger said. However, the audience responded with tepid applause, and Gelsinger found it necessary to repeat himself. "The team told me there would be a standing ovation when we announced this, so let's get excited about it!" he said.
Gelsinger also made it clear that he never would have instituted vRAM in the first place, which was odd since Maritz has been a vocal proponent of the consumption-based pricing model that underpins it.
2. Maritz lobs verbal grenade at Facebook
Not known for engaging in competitive rhetoric, Maritz jabbed at Facebook during a CEO roundtable at VMworld that included Gelsinger, EMC's Joe Tucci, NetApp's Tom Georgens and Dell's Michael Dell. Maritz, who joined EMC Sept. 1 as chief strategist, was relaxed and just having fun at the event.
During the discussion, Gelsinger noted the "tremendous oscillation" in the social networking space, noting that Facebook is "coming in and out of favour." Maritz agreed and offered his own insight into where things are headed for Facebook.
"If current trends continue, it won't be long before VMware's market [capitalisation] exceeds Facebook. That could be because VMware actually does something socially useful," Maritz quipped.
3. VMware CTO takes shot at Windows Phone
On day two of VMworld, VMware CTO Steve Herrod showed off Horizon Suite, a set of management tools that strikes the delicate balance between the bring-your-own-device trend and IT's need to keep tabs on the flood of devices coming into the workplace.
Horizon Suite includes the mobile hypervisor for Android devices that VMware showed off at last year's VMworld, which divvies a device into personal and work portions, with IT having full control over the latter.
This year, Herrod said Horizon Suite can also meet the needs of customers that have been clamoring for the ability to manage another type of phone, and when a large Windows Phone appeared on the big screen, the audience erupted in laughter.
Of course, the flood of demand Herrod was referring to wasn't for Windows Phone, but for iPhones and iPads.