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

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