The vCloud Director 8 SP Beta program has been going for a couple of months now and there has been decent activity in the Discussion Forums and also a good number of Feature Requests submitted online in the program portal showing that there is strong in interest in the next version of vCD.
After talking to a few beta participants and having a couple of comments posted on my kick off blog post here…what has become abundantly clear is that VMware and the vCD Product Team need to seriously consider updating the current web interface or revamping it completely and rewriting it as a modern interface…
Disclaimer: I am lucky enough to work for a Service Provider that has been able to develop a custom portal using both vSphere and vCloud APIs…The opinions below are based on what i’ve heard in the vCD Community and based on what I believe to be a missed opportunity for VMware to make vCD truly great.
API Only Features:
All new features released since the 5.6.x SP Branch have only been made available via the API…this is well and good for partners that have in house development teams, but out of the 300 odd vCloud Powered SPs around the world the majority I have talked to or heard about don’t have this capability. There is very real frustration in that the new features being released are not accessible and can’t be unlocked for SPs to use to improve their service offerings.
3rd Party UIs:
The clear direction from the vCD product team at the kick off meeting for the v8 Beta was that if partners did not have in house capabilities to develop against the API to seek out their ISV partners (of which there are very few) and look to integrate their 3rd party solutions into SPO offerings. The guys from OnApp and AirVM have got some great portals but from what I have heard they are pricey and reduce an SPs ability to differentiate service offerings due to the ridged nature of the portal requirements. That could be said for any portal (VMware built or not) but these portals generally come with provisioning and billing engines which only add to the cost…some comments also point out that there are behind in certain features.
The added cost is the biggest issue i’ve heard from SPs here though there is an argument to be had that if those SPs where to source in house capabilities it would cost a lot more to hire and develop their own custom portals…Many SPs believe that VMware should continue to offer an updated GUI without question.
Current UI Status
The last point to make here is that while other competitors in the private and public cloud space are coming out with updated, functional and ascetically pleasing, modern UIs VMware continue to lag seriously behind across the majority of their product set when it comes to decent UIs. The vCloud Director UI has always had its detractors though i’ve always felt it stacked up well after you spend some time getting to know it..if ever there was a reason for VMware to upgrade the release of the new API features (including those in 5.6.x SP) being not taken up be existing partners surly should make VMware rethink their position.
I’m not going to assume to fully understand the reasons why the decision was taken to not continue development of the UI but from my conversations with people in the know the decision to move to an SP only version of vCD and the ramifications that brought into play where not well received within certain areas of VMware. The only thing I really know is that current (and potential) SPs lament the lack of a truly modern, functional UI for vCD SP and that does and will hurt the continued uptake of vCD as a IaaS platform…That in it’s self is a shame as there are many fans of vCD and lots who understand that it’s one of most mature IaaS platforms going around and the way in which is abstracts vSphere resources is unique and adds clear differentiation to Per VM Instance based Public Clouds.
What will be interesting is to see where VMware take vCD SP over the next 12 to 18 months on the back of vCloud Air Platform development and if that flow of IP contains any improvements to the UI…it’s desperately needed in my opinion.
Just to finish off this post I’ve highlighted a few of the vCloud Director Portals ISV Partners and SP Partners have been able to produce…as well as an example of the UI from Rubrik which to me screams the simple functionality modern UIs require and also examples of the Azure Portal and Platform9 (OpenStack) Portal.