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VMware beta features: hype vs. reality

VMware’s “cloud computing” strategy set me off on a little rant last week. I wrote that VMware was likely getting into SaaS because it was either inspired by or jealous of Google’s success in the “cloud.”

Now it turns out that VMware is following Google’s footsteps in another area as well. And luckily, someone else has taken care of the criticism this time.

If you haven’t noticed, nearly all of Google’s services — including GMail, Google News and Google Apps — are still in beta, even though they’re years old. Andrew Kutz, who writes on our sister blog Virtualization Pro, points out that several new VMware features — including Storage VMotion and Virtual Machine High Availability — are also in beta or labeled “experimental.” Kutz writes:

Excuse me for being old fashioned, but it isn’t enterprise-ready if it is beta or labeled experimental. And VMware makes no bones about this; they plainly state that these features should not be used in production. However, on the other hand they make a big show about the same set of features, whipping the crowd to a fever pitch of excitement. You can’t have it both ways, guys.

… VMware needs to make sure that features that are experimental should be announced with an asterisk next to their headline.

VMware should be doing a better job separating hype from reality when talking about these products. But it looks like that job will instead fall to VMware partners. When your customers ask about Storage VMotion, for example, tell them it’s promising, but also point out that it doesn’t yet have a GUI option. You’re the last line of defense to keep customers from heading down the dead-end road of hype.

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With Microsoft setting its sights on virtualization, the virtualization trailblazers at VMware are running on borrowed time. Once your core technology becomes a commodity in a MS product you better have some really compelling features that will keep you relevant. Marketing hype only works in a limited zone around Redmond, and only for a little while even there. The IT marketplace is pretty clear about its virtualization wish list - and VMware is still the closest to an enterprise quality solution. But now the clock is ticking in earnest fellows...