VMware and the Public Cloud – Frenemies

VMWare CloudHistorically, VMware – the pioneer in virtualization – has always been a software/solutions vendor. They were never in the business of selling hardware, they left that to the hardware vendors. With the advent of the cloud, VMware established partnerships with third-party service providers, who have developed cloud-based solutions on top of VMware’s vCloud product. In this way they have continued to be leaders and have advanced cloud technology, without providing a cloud service of their own.

Approximately a year ago, rumors began to emerge that VMware would come out with a public cloud offering. Considering the billion-dollar market already enjoyed by Amazon, Rackspace and others, this wasn’t a total surprise.

VMware’s vCloud hybrid service

About six months ago, VMware announced vCloud Hybrid Service. What is this new hybrid cloud service? In essence it is a vCloud environment that lets you deploy applications onto their public cloud and also allows you to connect seamlessly between the two VMware environments. The actual environments are owned and operated by VMware themselves, but the datacenter belongs to a third party.

VMware has already deployed the service in a number of datacenters in the United States and announced the beginning of Beta operations in the UK, although expansion can be expected in the future. VMware’s entry into the public cloud market has been a source of contention for its partners, concerned about retaining their own market share. VMware partners, however, can continue to offer added benefits, in the form of contract conditions and additional functionality.

How does vCloud compare with pure cloud offerings?

Amazon is the clear leader in the public cloud market. It is the most experienced, with the largest customer base. Amazon cloud offers unique features and services, such as the DBaaS or EBS, that are not available from other providers. Different providers offer various services, including load balancing and scalability.

The cloud is about providing resources on-demand, with infinite capacity and scalability. At present, the vCloud offering does not provide full on-demand infinite capacity and allows for only limited scalability. It uses different terminology, which translates into a greater learning curve for users who are accustomed to platforms such as AWS.

Using Amazon or other cloud providers, you can set up an infinite number of machines and you can get these in matter of seconds, the exact response time will be dependent on a large number of factors. When you choose a VMware cloud offering, you reserve a certain capacity on a monthly basis. You cannot exceed that capacity. This translates into less flexibility and a need for the traditional IT capacity planning.

Overall, VMware’s approach to the cloud has a different feel to it. Whereas most cloud providers tend to treat their virtual machines like cattle – use it and replace it, VMware is treating their cloud offering as a treasured pet, carefully developing and tending it.

VMware – past and future

With the native growth of the native public clouds such as Google and Amazon, their traditional ”growing through partners” approach places them at a disadvantage in today’s cloud market. As a software company, they will expand to provide additional cloud services, including software solutions for networking, storage and more.

Today, vCloud Hybrid cloud Service is VMware’s public cloud. Although VMware started late, I believe that their solution could be a suitable one for many workloads and will evolve to become a significant market player in the future.