Different Approaches to the Cloud

Microsoft and VMware have been, in my opinion, two companies in direct competition with each other during their respective journeys to the cloud. VMware started first, paving the way for virtualization in corporate data centers. One could argue that once VMware demonstrated success with virtualization running corporate critical systems, Microsoft decided to go all in developing its virtualization strategy. Once the Microsoft juggernaut gets released, it seems there is no way to stop or even slow down the Microsoft machine.

Fast-forward a bit, and it is Microsoft taking the lead in establishing and creating its own cloud computing platform and infrastructure for building, deploying, and managing platforms, applications, and services through Microsoft’s global network of data centers. Microsoft Azure was released to the wild in 2010, and Microsoft hasn’t even hit its stride yet. It has been steadily adding an increasing number of features and services to Azure. I have written about Microsoft’s success during its journey, and I still believe that within another decade, Microsoft might just surpass Amazon Web Services (AWS) to become the new king of the cloud. A lot can happen in ten years, so I plan on grabbing some popcorn and seeing what kinds of twists and turns develop along the way.

VMware had a vision for its public cloud platform when it announced the VMware vCloud initiative at the VMworld 2008 conference in Las Vegas. In August of 2013, vCloud Hybrid Service was released to general availability. It was rebranded as vCloud Air late last year. Although I prefer the name “vCloud Air,” it would seem that “vCloud Hybrid Services” is more indicative of what it does. Hybrid cloud management remains one of VMware’s top priorities.

VMware and Microsoft both have public cloud offerings used as extensions of their respective products and ecosystems. The end result is tighter and tighter integration inside the products themselves. I am not going to get into a side-by-side comparison of the different public cloud offerings. Instead, I’ll focus on the fundamental differences these two companies show in their approaches to hybrid cloud management.

Currently, System Center 2012 R2 is Microsoft’s solution for delivering unified management to Microsoft’s private and public cloud platforms. VMware’s solution is the vRealize Suite. Both solutions are very powerful tools that bring robust features and centralized management, but the roadmaps for each of these management platforms seem to be heading in quite different directions.

Microsoft appears to be focused on simplifying management and helping create seamless migrations from physical, VMware, AWS, and Microsoft Hyper-V workloads into Azure. Not surprisingly, this seamless migration strategy is traveling down a bit of a one-way street into the Azure platform.

Microsoft isn’t alone in this. Amazon provides a free plugin for its customers to manage Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances via VMware’s management portal.  This is another easier-in-one-direction-than-the-other import process that runs from VMware’s platform into EC2. Amazon is dedicated to delivering the message that all cloud operations will eventually move into the public cloud. The hybrid cloud is just a stopping point during the journey toward companies’ going all-in with all services to the public cloud. I am not sure I agree with Amazon’s message. VMware seems to share my skepticism on this subject.

VMware has given its vRealize Suite of products a similar interface that is shared between heterogeneous cloud systems with… wait for it… full bidirectional portability between the different heterogeneous cloud platforms. This will separate VMware’s solution from the rest of the pack.

VMware already has management packs to extend operational functionality to AWS with vCloud Air. VMware announced an agreement with Google at the end of January 2015 to deliver enterprise access to Google’s public cloud services via VMware vCloud Air. As part of the agreement, Google Cloud Platform will be tightly integrated into vCloud Air. I would not be surprised to find that Google and VMware extend the partnership into the vRealize Suite.

In closing, I believe that VMware will continue to expand its partnerships portfolio as it continues to position itself as the glue that holds all the different heterogeneous cloud platforms together, while others take different approaches to the cloud.

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