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Five big takeaways from VMworld

September 1, 2015, 11:29 PM UTC
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger
Jonathan Vanian

VMware attracted a huge crowd to its annual conference this week to talk about wonky technology that helps companies operate data centers and manage mobile devices. Although not particularly well known by the general public, VMware plays a big role in Silicon Valley and with businesses looking to save money on their technology infrastructure.

Over 23,000 people attended the event, VMworld, in San Francisco. The throngs heard about the latest updates from the company, one of several that are part of a portfolio of businesses by the EMC Federation.

Not every highlight from the conference had to deal specifically with the nuances of data center technology. Here are five of the most interesting things that happened:

1. VMware and Microsoft show some love

VMware (VMW) and Microsoft (MSFT) may be known in the tech industry as being fierce rivals. But on Tuesday, the two put aside their differences and announced a partnership to make each other’s technology work more efficiently with each other.

Before introducing Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Jim Alkove to the stage, VMware general manager of end-user computing, Sanjay Poonen, joked, “There was a Twitter rumor that Donald Trump will be on stage.” Although not quite as famous, Alkove did create a stir by being the first Microsoft executive to appear on stage at VMware’s conference.

Microsoft’s corporate vice president Jim Alkove and VMware general manager of end-user computing Sanjay Poonen
Jonathan Vanian

With the two companies working together, Windows 10 users will be able to use VMware’s mobile business management service to keep track of their employees and the devices they use to log onto their corporate networks.

2. Apps that look like Teletubbies

A big theme at this year’s VMworld was the importance of what are known as “cloud-native applications.” This term is a fancy way of describing software designed to take advantage of cloud computing infrastructure, in which businesses can buy computing resources on an as-needed basis from providers like Microsoft and Amazon (AMZN).

To make the idea of a “cloud-native application” more fun and lighthearted, VMware dressed up some people in square-shaped “app costumes” that resembled a mutated version of the once-popular Teletubbies TV show for children. These loveable VMware apps greeted people to the keynote session and frolicked around like Disney characters lost at an IT trade show.

A short video played during the keynote sessions that showed the plush, mischievous apps.
Jonathan Vanian

And boy were these darn little apps mischievous. When VMware President and COO Carl Eschenbach begin his keynote on Monday, they danced around him on stage and giggled like they were fairy tricksters.

3. Containers? Yes, we have containers

VMware is known for its expertise in virtualization, a type of technology that makes operating data centers more efficient. But over the past year, a newer variant of virtualization known as containers has been gaining a lot of steam for being even more efficient than traditional virtualization technology. The hot startup Docker has led the way in popularizing container technology, leaving industry analysts to speculate that its rise could end up eating into VMware’s core business. This week, VMware rolled out its own version of container technology, which shows that the company sees this type of data center technology as something it couldn’t afford to ignore.

4. The word not mentioned

Attendees could have left VMworld thinking that everything is just peachy in the EMC Federation, an alliance of companies that includes VMware and storage giant EMC. In fact, no one really mentioned the word “EMC” at all, even though there’s been plenty of speculation that hedge fund Elliott Management is urging the federation to break itself apart and spin out VMware as a separate company. Although company leaders didn’t want to talk about the corporate drama, conference attendees had plenty to say, including the fact that they hope the VMware and EMC (EMC) storage products they use won’t be affected by any corporate overhaul.

5. Who needs Wi-Fi anyway?

It wouldn’t be a big tech conference without painfully slow Internet service. Yes, even though VMware also sells networking software and products, trying to connect to the Internet during the show was a hassle, as exemplified by many frustrated tweets. To fair, tech conferences routinely have poor Wi-Fi. But you’d think that companies preaching about an always connected world and the reliability of their services would make sure that they could deliver on it during their big events.

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