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By: David Davis

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The annual GigaOm Structure Conference was held in San Francisco, CA June 22-23 of 2011 with the headline, “making sense of the real cloud”. The conference was sponsored by companies, large and small, the likes of VMware, Terremark, Cisco, EMC, and Microsoft (as well as 200+ other companies). Speakers included leaders of companies (like VMware’s own Paul Maritz and AT&T’s), Technologists (like VMware’s Javier Soltero, CTO of SaaS), and analysts like Vanessa Alvarez (Forrester’s Infrastructure and Cloud Analyst). 

At the Structure conference, Paul Maritz spoke on “Shaping the Cloud”. In his session, Paul covered how VMware’s products defined virtualization and how they continue to push the limits of what’s possible. With the release of VMware’s vCloud Director, VMware is now shaping the cloud computing industry.

After his session, Paul was interviewed by GigaOm. In the interview, Paul discussed how for most of his 33 years in the computer industry, he helped create the automated equivalent of the work desk, where white-collar employees crafted “beautiful documents.” He went on to say that “things are shifting where people now consume streams of content and act on it” and that this “shift in behavior is so new that we don’t even have the vocabulary to express it”. Paul said that, for lack of a better set of terms, we call this change the “post-PC” and “post-document” era.

So what does this mean for you? Your immediate reaction may be that your PC and documents are going away. You might think that you won’t have Microsoft Office documents anymore and, perhaps, that VMware is even planning on replacing those applications – somehow. Let’s clarify what Paul is talking about.

  1. VMware has announced no plans to replace or even compete with the Microsoft Office suite (perhaps with the exception of Zimbra which competes with Exchange/Outlook)
  2. We have been in the “post-PC era” for some time with the popularity of thin client devices (and other portable end user devices) and with the use of desktop virtualization. However, that doesn’t mean that people are going to stop buying PCs anytime soon (but it may have something to do with the poor PC sales numbers over the past few years).
  3. The “post-document era” can be the most puzzling of Paul’s comments as most of us are still tied to constant use of our word processing and spreadsheet applications. However, think about how many web-based applications you use now versus a few years back. These software as a service (SaaS) applications are document-based. They are data-based as they store the data in a relational database then can present and use that data in a multitude of ways.

According to Maritz, the future holds less focus on filing and using documents and more focus on doing what you need to get done with specific applications that help you. Those apps aren’t general-purpose tools (like a word processor or spreadsheet) but specific tools (like a SalesForce CRM and SocialCast).

What can you do to prepare? Virtualize your servers to begin preparing for the cloud. You should test desktop and application virtualization and consider implementing them in production. Besides learning, virtualization and software-as-a-service applications can make your life (as VMware Admins) tremendously easier and save your company time & money.

Be sure to catch tomorrow’s webcast, Raising the Bar, Part V, where Paul Maritz and Steve Herrod will be unveiling the next step in cloud infrastructure. The vCloud team will also be live-tweeting the event on the @vCloud channel.

David Davis is a VMware Evangelist and vSphere Video Training Author for Train Signal. He has achieved CCIE, VCP,CISSP, and vExpert level status over his 15+ years in the IT industry. David has authored hundreds of articles on the Internet and nine different video training courses for TrainSignal.com including the popular vSphere video training package. Learn more about David at his blog or on Twitter and check out a sample of his VMware vSphere video training course from TrainSignal.com.