The news is out: you can now have the dominant enterprise hypervisor in the dominant public cloud. This is a pretty major shift for both vendors, and it will take a while to get enough details of the business and technical sides. Right now, we know that AWS will offer physical ESXi servers in its data centers. The ESXi servers will be patched and maintained by VMware, but the workloads will be managed by customers. What I haven’t seen yet is how much control customers get. We also don’t yet know how the network integrates with Amazon’s VPC networking. Another huge issue is what this means for VMware’s pre-existing cloud service provider partners.
The vSphere blog post tells us that AWS will provision dedicated physical servers. VMware will deploy ESXi, vCenter, VSAN, and NSX. This provides an enterprise infrastructure inside the AWS cloud. The obvious purpose is to allow existing enterprise applications to be deployed alongside more modern applications. For customers, this reduces the data access latency for cloud-native apps using data held in legacy apps. I am hoping that we will see tight integration between the AWS VPC networking and VMware’s NSX. It would be a pretty poor result if customers needed to manage those two separately. It does appear that NSX is required for the vSphere in AWS part, but not for the customer’s on-premises vSphere. I suspect that this is a Trojan horse to get NSX in the on-premises vSphere.
I have to imagine that existing vCloud Air partners are feeling a bit betrayed by VMware. These are service providers that have built a business around delivering VMs using VMware’s platform to their customers. When VMware decided to shift focus away from the vCloud products, these partners felt the love go away. Now that VMware has gotten so close to AWS, the vCloud Air partners will be feeling very threatened. I would expect those same partners to start looking at alternative cloud platforms, as VMware clearly has a new partner.
What Is in this Deal for VMware?
One perspective is that the deal will slow the decline of vSphere revenues. Rather than move completely off vSphere when they “move to the cloud,” these customers will still use vSphere and be in the cloud. Keep in mind that VMware has been saying that NSX and VSAN are the growth products for the near future. This bundle includes NSX and VSAN, so every sale is growth in those products.
What Is in this Deal for AWS?
What’s in it for AWS? The ability to accept unmodified enterprise workloads. The challenge with the platforms that AWS provides is that they are not the same as enterprise infrastructure. There are great ways to build enterprise architecture and applications on top of AWS. However, the basic patterns are very different from an enterprise data center. Having an enterprise hypervisor in AWS means that customers can simply lift-n-shift VMs into AWS: no need to change application architectures, and so much faster and simpler. AWS gets to be the platform for enterprise applications as well as cloud-native applications.
What Is in It for Customers?
Options, including the option to have enterprise applications on the same platform as cloud-native applications. Now enterprise applications can be placed in AWS if that suits the business and application needs. Familiarity is also important. Cloud-native applications are often managed by DevOps teams. The persistent data in the enterprise applications is managed by the IT people, the ones who use vSphere everywhere. Then there is the economics cloud sell; AWS buys servers cheaper than you can, and VMware knows more about managing its hypervisor than you do. vSphere-as-a-Service (vaaS) seems like a good option.
My big concern here is that VMware and AWS may not be sufficiently committed. AWS certainly isn’t going out of business if this fails, so it is less likely to commit resources. VMware is looking at a near future of declining revenue; hopefully it is very committed. This move will succeed if it is integrated into the AWS interfaces and particularly into the networking. We will need to wait for a production release to see the integration level of vSphere. Hopefully, the beta will pass fast and we will see a production release and a roadmap of further features. When VMware commits, we see a lot of good development and delivery on vision. When the commitment is lower, we see preproduction demos for years and choose to deploy other solutions while we wait.