Tag Archives: Hybrid Cloud

Looking Beyond the Hyper-Scaler Clouds – Don’t Forget the Little Guys!

I’ve been on the road over the past couple of weeks presenting to Veeam’s VCSP partners and prospective partners here in Australia and New Zealand on Veeam’s Cloud Business. Apart from the great feedback in response to what Veeam is doing by way of our cloud story I’ve had good conversations around public cloud and infrastructure providers verses the likes of Azure or AWS. Coming from my background working for smaller, but very successful service providers I found it almost astonishing that smaller resellers and MSPs seem to be leveraging the hyper-scale clouds without giving the smaller providers a look in.

On the one hand, I understand why people would choose to look to Azure, AWS and alike to run their client services…while on the other hand I believe that the marketing power of the hyper-scalers has left the capabilities and reputation of smaller providers short changed. You only need to look at last week’s AWS outage and previous Azure outages to understand that no cloud is immune to outages and it’s misjudged to assume that the hyper-scalers offer any better reliability or uptime than the likes of providers in the vCloud Air Network or other IaaS providers out there.

That said, there is no doubt that the scale and brain power that sits behind the hyper-scalers ensures a level of service and reliability that some smaller providers will struggle to match, but as was the case last week…the bigger they are, the harder they fall. The other things that comes with scale is the ability to drive down prices and again, there seems to be a misconception that the hyper-scalers are cheaper than smaller service providers. In fact most of the conversations I had last week as to why Azure or AWS was chosen was down to pricing and kickbacks. Certainly in Azure’s case, Microsoft has thrown a lot into ensuring customers on EAs have enough free service credits to ensure uptake and there are apparently nice sign-up bonuses that they offer to partners.

During that conversation, I asked the reseller why they hadn’t looked at some of the local VCSP/vCAN providers as options for hosting their Veeam infrastructure for clients to backup workloads to. Their response was, that it was never a consideration due to Microsoft being…well…Microsoft. The marketing juggernaut was too strong…the kickbacks too attractive. After talking to him for a few minutes I convinced him to take a look at the local providers who offer, in my opinion more flexible and more diverse service offerings for the use case.

Not surprisingly, in most cases money is the number one factor in a lot of these decisions with service uptime and reliability coming in as an important afterthought…but an afterthought non-the less. I’ve already written about service uptime and reliability in regards to cloud outages before but the main point of this post is to highlight that resellers and MSP’s can make as much money…if not more, with smaller service providers. It’s common now for service providers to offer partner reseller or channel programs that ensure the partner gets decent recurring revenue streams from the services consumed and the more consumed the more you make by way of program level incentives.

I’m not going to do the sums, because there is so much variation in the different programs but those reading who have not considered using smaller providers over the likes of Azure or AWS I would encourage to look through the VCSP Service Provider directory and the vCloud Air Network directory and locate local providers. From there, enquire about their partner reseller or channel programs…there is money to be made. Veeam (and VMware with the vCAN) put a lot of trust and effort into our VCSPs and having worked for some of the best and know of a lot of other service provider offerings I can tell you that if you are not looking at them as a viable option for your cloud services then you are not doing yourself justice.

The cloud hyper-scalers are far from the panacea they claim to be…if anything, it’s worthwhile spreading your workloads across multiple clouds to ensure the best availability experience for your clients…however, don’t forget the little guys!

VMware on AWS: Thoughts on the Impact to the vCloud Air Network

Last week VMware and Amazon Web Services officially announced their new joint venture whereby VMware technology will be available to run as a service on AWS in the form of bare-bones hardware with vCenter, ESXi, NSX and VSAN as the core VMware technology components. This isn’t some magic whereby ESXi is nested or emulated upon the existing AWS platform, but a fully fledged dedicated virtual datacenter offering that clients can buy through VMware and have VMware manage the stack right up to the core vCenter components.

Note: These initial opinions are just that. There has been a fair bit of Twitter reaction over the announcement, with the majority being somewhat negative towards the VMware strategy. There are a lot of smart guys working on this within VMware and that means it’s got technical focus, not just Exec/Board strategy. There is also a lot of time between this initial announcement and it’s release first release in 2017 however initial perception and reaction to a massive shift in direction should and will generate debate…this is my take from a vCAN point of view.

The key service benefits as taken from the AWS/VMware landing page can be seen below:

Let me start by saying that this is a huge huge deal and can not be underestimated in terms of it’s significance. If I take my vCAN hat off, I can see how and why this was necessary for both parties to help each other fight off the growing challenge from Microsoft’s Azure offering and the upcoming Azure Stack. For AWS, it lets them tap into the enterprise market where they say they have been doing well…though in reality, it’s known that they aren’t doing as well as they had hoped. While for VMware, it helps them look serious about offering a public cloud that is truly hyper-scale and also looks at protecting existing VMware workloads from being moved over to Azure…and to a lesser extent AWS directly.

There is a common enemy here, and to be fair to Microsoft it’s obvious that their own shift in focus and direction has been working and the industry is taking note.

Erasing vCloud Air and The vCAN Impact:

For VMware especially, it can and should erase the absolute disaster that was vCloud Air… Looking back at how the vCloud Air project transpired the best thing to come out of it was the refocus in 2015 of VMware to prop back up the vCloud Air Network, which before that had been looking shaky with the vCANs strongest weapon, vCloud Director, being pushed to the side and it’s future uncertain. In the last twelve months there has an been apparent recommitment to vCloud Director and the vCAN and things had been looking good…however that could be under threat with this announcement…and for me, perception is everything!

Public Show of Focus and Direction:

Have a listen to the CNBC segment embedded above where Pat Gelsinger and AWS CEO Andy Jassy discuss the partnership. Though I wouldn’t expect them to mention the 4000+ strong vCloud Air Network (or the recent partnership with IBM for that matter) the fact that they are openly discussing about the unique industry first benefits the VMWonAWS partnership brings to the market, in the same breath they ignore or put aside the fact that the single biggest advantage that the vCloud Air Network had was VMware workload mobility.

Complete VMware Compatibility:

VMware Cloud on AWS will provide VMware customers with full VM compatibility and seamless workload portability between their on-premises infrastructure and the AWS Cloud without the need for any workload modifications or retooling.

Workload Migration:

VMware Cloud on AWS works seamlessly with vSphere vMotion, allowing you to move running virtual machines from on-premises infrastructure to the AWS Cloud without any downtime. The virtual machines retain network identity and connections, ensuring a seamless migration experience.

The above features are pretty much the biggest weapons that vCloud Air Network partners had in the fight against existing or potential client moving or choosing AWS over their own VMware based platform…and from direct experience, I know that this advantage is massive and does work. With this advantage taken away, vCAN Service Providers may start to loose workloads to AWS at a faster clip than what was done previously.

In truth VMware have been very slow…almost reluctant to pass over features that would allow this cross cloud compatibility and migration be even more of a weapon for the vCAN by holding back on features that allowed on-premises vCenter and Workstation/Fusion connect directly to vCloud Air endpoints in products such as Hybrid Cloud Manager. I strongly believed that those products should have been extended from day zero to have the ability to connect to any vCloud Director endpoint…it wasn’t a stretch for that to occure as it is effectively the same endpoint but for some reason it was strategically labeled as a “coming soon” feature.

VMware Access to Multiple AWS Regions:

VMware Virtual Machines running on AWS can leverage over 70 AWS services covering compute, storage, database, security, analytics, mobile, and IoT. With VMware Cloud on AWS, customers will be able to leverage their existing investment in VMware licenses through customer loyalty programs.

I had mentioned on Twitter that the image below was both awesome and scary mainly because all I think about when I look at it is the overlay of the vCloud Air Network and how VMware actively promote 4000+ vCAN partners contributing to existing VMware customers in being able to leverage their existing investments on vCloud Air Network platforms.

Look familiar?

 

In truth of those 4000+ vCloud Air Network providers there are maybe 300 that are using vCloud Director in some shape or form and of those an even smaller amount that can programatically take advantage of automated provisioning and self service. There in lies one of the biggest issues for the vCAN…while some IaaS providers excel, the majority offer services that can’t stack up next to the hyper-scalers. Because of that, I don’t begrudge VMware to forgetting about the capabilities of the vCAN, but as mentioned above, I believe more could, and still can be been done to help the network complete in the market.

Conclusion:

Right, so that was all the negative stuff as it relates the vCloud Air Network, but I have been thinking about how this can be a positive for both the vCAN and more importantly for me…vCloud Director. I’ll put together another post on where and how I believe VMware can take advantage of this partnership to truly compete against the looming threat of the Azure Stack…with vCAN IaaS providers offering vCloud Director SP front and center of that solution.

References:

http://www.vmware.com/company/news/releases/vmw-newsfeed.VMware-and-AWS-Announce-New-Hybrid-Cloud-Service,-%E2%80%9CVMware-Cloud-on-AWS%E2%80%9D.3188645-manual.html

https://aws.amazon.com/vmware/

VMware Cloud™ on AWS – A Closer Look

https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&vertical=default&q=VMWonAWS

Azure Stack – Microsoft’s White Elephant?

Microsoft’s World Wide Partner Conference is currently on again in Toronto and even though my career has diverged from working on the Microsoft stack (no pun) over the past four or five years I still attend the local Microsoft SPLA monthly meetings where possible and keep a keen eye on what Microsoft is doing in the cloud and hosting spaces.

The concept of Azure Stack has been around for a while now and it entered Technical Preview early this year. Azure Stack was/is touted as an easily deployable end to end solution that gives enterprises Azure like flexibility on premises covering IaaS, PaaS and Containers. The premise of the solution is solid and Microsoft obviously see an opportunity to cash in on the private and hybrid cloud market that at the moment, hasn’t been locked down by any one vendor or solution. The end goal though is for Microsoft to have workloads that are easily transportable into the Azure Cloud.

Azure Stack is Microsoft’s emerging solution for enabling organizations to deploy private Azure cloud environments on-premises. During his Day 2 keynote presentation at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Toronto, Scott Guthrie, head of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Group, touted Azure Stack as a key differentiator for Microsoft compared to other cloud providers.

The news overnight at WPC is that apart from the delay in it’s release (which wasn’t unexpected given the delays in Windows Server 2016) Microsoft have now said that the Azure Stack will only be available via pre-validated hardware partners which means that customers can’t deploy the solution themselves meaning the stack loses flexibility.

Neil said the move is in response to feedback from customers who have said they don’t want to deal with the complexities and downtime of doing the deployments themselves. To that end, Microsoft is making Azure Stack available only through pre-validated hardware partners, instead of releasing it as a solution that customers can deploy, manage and customize.

This is an interesting and in my opinion risky move by Microsoft. There is a precedence to suggest that going down this path leads to lesser market penetration and could turn the Azure Stack into that white elephant that I suggested in a tweet and in the title of this post. You only have to look at how much of a failure VMware’s EVO:Rail product was to understand the risks of tying a platform to vendor specific hardware and support. Effectively they are now creating a Converged Infrastructure Stack with Azure bolted on where as before there was absolute freedom in enterprises being able to deploy Azure Stack into existing hardware deployments allowing for a way to realise existing costs and extending that to provide private cloud services.

As with EVO:Rail and other Validated Designs, I see three key areas where they suffer and impact customer adoption.

Validated Design Equals Cost:

If I take EVO:Rail as an example there was a premium placed on obtaining the stack through the validated vendors and this meant a huge premium on what could have been sourced independently when you took hardware, software and support costs into account. Potentially this will be the same for the Azure Stack…vendors will add their percentage for the validated design, plus ongoing maintenance. As mentioned above, there is also now the fact that you must buy new hardware (compute, network, storage) meaning any existing hardware that can and should be used for private cloud is now effectively dead weight and enterprises need to rethink long term about existing investments.

Validated Design Equals Inherit Complexity:

When you take something in-house and not let smart technical people deploy a solution my mind starts to ask the question why? I understand the argument will be that Microsoft want a consistent experience for the Azure Stack and there are other examples of controlled deployments and tight solutions (VMware NSX comes to mind in the early days) but when the market you are trying to break into is built on the premise of reduced complexity…only allowing certain hardware and partners to run and deploy your software tells me that it walks a fine line between being truly consumable and it being a black box. I’ve talked about Complex Simplicity before and this move suggests that Azure Stack was not ready or able to be given to techs to install, configure and manage.

Validated Design Equals Inflexibility:

Both of the points above lead into the suggestion that the Azure Stack looses it’s flexibility. Flexibility in the private and hybrid cloud world is paramount and the existing players like Openstack and others are extremely flexible…almost to a fault. If you buy from a vendor you loose the flexibility of choice and can then be impacted at will by costs pressures relating to maintenance and support. If the Azure stack is too complex to be self managed then it certainly looses the flexibility to be used in the service provider space…let alone the enterprise.

Final Thoughts:

Worryingly the tone of the offical Blog Announcement over the delay suggest that Microsoft is reaching to try and justify the delay and the reasoning for going down the different distribution model. You just have to read the first few comments on the blog post to see that I am not alone in my thoughts.

Microsoft is committed to ensuring hardware choice and flexibility for customers and partners. To that end we are working closely with the largest systems vendors – Dell, HPE, Lenovo to start with – to co-engineer integrated systems for production environments. We are targeting the general availability release of Azure Stack, via integrated systems with our partners, starting mid-CY2017. Our goal is to democratize the cloud model by enabling it for the broadest set of use-cases possible.

 

With the release of Azure Stack now 12+ months away Microsoft still has the opportunity to change the perception that the WPC2016 announcements has in my mind created. The point of private cloud is to drive operational efficiency in all areas. Having a fancy interface with all the technical trimmings isn’t what will make an on-premises stack gain mainstream adoption. Flexibility, cost and reduced complexity is what counts.

References:

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/microsoft-azure-stack-delivering-cloud-infrastructure-as-integrated-systems/?utm_campaign=WPC+2016&utm_medium=bitly&utm_source=MNC+Microsite

https://rcpmag.com/articles/2016/07/12/wpc-2016-microsoft-delays-azure-stack.aspx

http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-to-release-azure-stack-as-an-appliance-in-mid-2017/

http://www.techworld.com.au/article/603302/microsoft-delays-its-azure-stack-software-until-mid-2017/