With VMware having entered the post server virtualization phase a while back, it's no longer quite so difficult to get your head around the idea of VMware becoming involved in activities such as network and storage virtualization, cloud operations, or even containers.
But one move that has always been hard to fathom was VMware's purchase of AirWatch back at the start of 2014, for a cool billion dollars. AirWatch is a mobile device management product, and at the time of the acquisition VMware tried to square the circle by saying that it wanted to dip its toes into the mobile computing waters.
VMware pointed out that it was already involved in desktop virtualization, which it would extend to delivering enterprise application to smartphones and tablets with the AirWatch acquisition.
But now the AirWatch purchase is beginning to look like a rather a shrewd move.
That's because at Dell EMC World 2017 in Las Vegas this past month the company unveiled a new product called Pulse IoT Center, which is the first in what will become a whole family of VMware Internet of Things (IoT) products.
Pulse is designed to be an enterprise-grade Internet of Things infrastructure management solution that IT teams can use to control their IoT infrastructure and a large number of "things."
It's not clear whether VMware had an IoT product in mind when it bought AirWatch, or whether it was just serendipitous that the mobile device management product had much of the technology required to managed IoT as well as phones — technology such as carrying out remote wipes if a device's security is compromised. (Pulse also monitors and troubleshoots infrastructure, using technology developed for VMware's vRealize Operations product — but that's another story.)
Either way, it's a canny move on VMware's part because the IoT is still being hyped by the likes of IDC and Gartner to become very large indeed.
To give an idea of just how big, IDC estimated that at the end of 2015 there were 12.1 billion connected "things" in existence, and that this figure will more than double to over 30 billion connected devices in 2020.
What Pulse Offers for IoT Management
According to VMware, Pulse is able to:
- On-board, manage, monitor, and secure diverse IoT edge systems, connected devices, and applications from a single console
- Interoperate between heterogeneous edge systems and connected devices with different hardware, operating systems, and communication protocols
- Define and track what, where, and when things are updated over the air (OTA) or changed — with a sophisticated and flexible rules engine
- Access real-time infrastructure analytics and real-time monitoring
- Visualize all edge systems, connected devices and their relationships (i.e., status, location, dependencies) for IoT use case grouping
- Define KPIs / measures, alerts, and actions
- Minimize exposed data by creating a tunnel from data point to application by using VMware NSX as an add-on
- Wipe data from devices at any time if they are exposed to security threats
- Maintain up-to-date firmware and security patches and upgrade software OTA via an integrated policy engine
But wait. There's more. The whole Dell EMC merger/acquisition was questioned by many people who failed to see the logic in it. To an extent that's still true, but there are hints of synergies in the Pulse announcement.
That's because Dell offers a product called an Edge Gateway, which is an Intel Atom-powered device that connects to IoT devices and aggregates and analyzes the input before sending on meaningful data to the cloud or a IoT control center. And, surprise, surprise, Pulse will be the "preferred enterprise management and monitoring solution" for these Edge Gateways, building up a Dell EMC IoT solution.
So what's all this got to do with server virtualization? The answer is nothing, really, and that's the point. VMware is a post-virtualization company, and Pulse IoT Center just goes to prove that point.
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.