My esteemed colleague and friend Tom Howarth recently posted an article titled “AWS and VMware Now Friends, but What Happens to vCloud Air?” I’d like to take this opportunity to present an alternative possibility regarding what might happen to vCloud Air. I’ll start with a paragraph from Tom’s post and work my way from there.
“The truth is, VMware has never until recently truly understood the cloud. Yes, there is a case for arguing that it was one of the progenitors of the cloud, but its roots are firmly entrenched in legacy hardware–based on-premises data centers. Until recently, it considered vSphere and ESXi specifically its sacred cow and was very protectionist regarding its revenues for ESXi. Gelsinger has been slowly revolutionizing VMware, changing its culture regarding vSphere. However, it takes time to move those executives who are stuck with Old World viewpoints out. Some can be sidelined, but the more visible and senior ones have to be pushed or convinced to “pursue different challenges.” With the departure of Eschenbach and Casado, Gelsinger finally freed himself from the shackles of the founders; consequently, his vision is starting to take shape and form.”
I have to admit, I did not quite hear things put the same way, but I do find myself agreeing with Tom’s assessment. One of the takeaways from the VMworld 2016 conference was the company’s change in focus from vSphere straight into the cloud. Whether Cross-Cloud or Cloud Foundry, everything moving forward will be about the cloud.
Tom believes that “The vCloud Air story is one of starts and stops [and] missed opportunities.” I think that some of these starts and stops might fit more with a realignment and redirection. When vCloud Air was conceived, the original concept was for it to be a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Azure, at some point going up against AWS. I currently think that VMware has moved things in a different direction. The decision to change course was based largely on capabilities that VMware NSX brings into play, as well as on advancements in the vRealize Suite.
I think VMware realized it couldn’t pour billions of dollars into infrastructure the way Microsoft and Amazon have done, and it decided to focus on integration with the corporations that make up the bulk of its customer base. I believe that VMware came to the conclusion that seamless integration of the public cloud into the VMware corporate customers’ current infrastructures could present some unique opportunities for the public option.
Since vCloud Air is running on VMware technology, the service can be presented as an extension of the company’s current environment, complete with the functionality of the corporate private cloud. I have heard of specific cases of companies that have discovered it is more cost effective to migrate resources from some of the more expensive data centers into vCloud Air. Seamless transition is going to be VMware’s special niche. Am I the only one who can foresee some sort of cross-cloud vMotion?
This will be what separates vCloud Air from what I think will be coming from the VMware and AWS partnership. I believe that the AWS option will continue to run on top of AWS’s hypervisor, and the VMware cloud platform will be developed to try to match as much as possible in the native VMware environment. I believe it will take a little time until the fruits of that labor come to market as a completely viable option. At the same time, there will be other use cases for which AWS will be just perfect. In the long run, this partnership with AWS presents more and different opportunities that could enhance what is offered inside vCloud Air. I believe that AWS is the first of several partnerships to be announced, and I hope that VMware continues to strive toward becoming the technology that bridges the different public cloud options available in the marketplace.
There is another possibility: VMware, with vCloud Air, could be positioned to offer some of the different products from the vRealize Suite as a service from inside vCloud Air. Time will tell where Pat Gelsinger’s vision ends up taking us. I agree that VMware is at a turning point as a company. We will see if it can make the transition while continuing to grow and if it can increase revenue away from vSphere and into some of the other suites of products. I believe vCloud Air can and will be an intricate part of that process.