vCloud Director SP: The Need for UI Improvement!

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.

Flash Poll:

As a vCloud Powered SP, do you have in house capability to develop against the vCD API to produce a Custom Portal.

View Results

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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.

AirVM:

OnApp:

ZettaGrid:

iLand Cloud:

Rubrik:

Azure:

Platform9:


#LongLivevCD

9 comments

  • nutanix prism

  • I wasn’t able to join the webcast for the v8 beta kick off but did watch it back later. The conversations at the end regarding the UI did sound a bit uncomfortable for the VMware guys involved. I don’t think they’re under any illusion that it’s been well received.

    I like vCloud Director but the UI has always seemed a bit like a second class citizen. Little things like hot disk size increases were possible in the API from early versions but only made it to the UI much later.

    I’d love to see things like per-disk storage profiles and VM performance metrics in the UI, more scope for customisation, less reliance on java and flash, etc. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely to happen.

    So did you vote in your own poll? Are you the single “yes” vote?

    • I remember the Q&A being fairly uncomfortable…I think I might have even tried to change the subject by asking a different question.

      Maybe there is a case to list all the new API features since 5.6.x and rate them from most wanted in UI to least wanted?

      …and yes one of those votes was me.

  • Hi Anthony, here at Indocloud, we are more than likely going to drop vcloud (which impacts our vcloud air network status) in favour of the azure portal. We have already deployed it, and its awesome.

    VMware have made a mistake killing off vcd gui, as that was the enabler of vcloud air network partners.

    VCD gui needed a self-signup page (so customer can register for their own account), and it needed a simpler, more modern gui. The one there now is far too technical for the average customer.

    N

    • Hey Neil…that’s an interesting move. Does that mean you are shifting to a Hyper-V Backed platform with Storage Spaces?

      I don’t think the need for a self-signup page was much of an issue…most Cloud Providers could use vCO to automate the creation of Orgs, Users and vDCs…in fact the vCD SP 8 Beta has enhanced API calls so tenants can actually deploy their own vDCs based on parent resources…however, you need the skill set to expose that and put it to good use.

      The modern GUI is more pertinent a reason and the crux of my argument…I’ve found that our users get used to the current vCD Console…but there is a learning curve…to me though it’s still got enough functionality to pass…but it needs a refresh as we have been talking about.

      • Azure portal has a 3rd party extension that supports vmware vcloud director. So when i say we are switching portals, all i mean is from a customer perspective. Behind the scenes vcloud is still there, but no customer will be given a login to it.

  • Great post Antoni, you know how I feel about this too! I’ve put my vote in and wasn’t surprised by the results.

  • Hi guys

    I also put my vote and as i wrote in the last post about vcloud director from anthony, its a real problem for us!

  • I’ve put this together from 100’s of meetings with VMware both EBCs, World, SP Councils etc. Some of it is supposition and VMware wouldn’t confirm for me… so it may not be 100% accurate but here goes. Also I’m not sure how much I can say given I’ve spoken to some pretty senior people at VMware plus I’ve been privileged to sit on their Service Provider Advisory board where there are a few things discussed that they put under NDA. So I’ll try to make a best judgement around anything that follows and I’ll try to put it in a timeline perspective…

    0) vCloud was created because internally, VMware couldn’t modify vCenter fast enough to add features for cloud like adoption. So the decision was to spin out a dev team, let them go as quickly as possible and use the vCenter APIs to develop something that would allow SPs and the Enterprise (that was the real goal) to have a private cloud and stop the noise of AWS/Cloud that was humming in the market….BUT:

    1) It was pretty much doomed from the start when they first released v1. It was terrible and that’s being nice. Poor vSphere integration, lacked features vCenter had. So any internal sysadmin didn’t want to go near it…remember it used to use GUIDs to identify VMs so you had to look for mappings? You couldn’t back it up or restore it… and the effort you had to (and arguably still) do to integrate it and make it work well didn’t justify the return… poor start team. Why add another 100 hours to the build of your VMware environment to get something that limits you? most decision makers saw this…it had promise… BUT:

    2) They wrote it in the wrong language – Flash. They picked flash because it was quick/easy/looked nice but almost as soon as VCD 1.1/2 was released, (from my hazy memory), Adobe announced they were stopping investment. The world turned almost overnight to HTML5 and that meant a big re-write for them. Flash is horrible, zero mobile support (remember Steve Jobs), Flash is terrible, we all know it, just accept it. But they couldn’t justify the rewrite cost (and time delay) because…

    3) Most customers weren’t deploying it. Sure there are some big installations around the world, mostly larger customers that had internal development shops and multiple business units, but the trouble was the only real adoption they were getting was with the service providers and they were getting it for free through the VSPP. At this time, VMware was trying to match up the SP’s and Solution providers and they needed the SP’s to have a standard platform with APIs etc… They were also backing a number of Telcos (remember vCloud Data Center partners) to try and lift them up to the emerging AWS, MS, (looming Google) threat of public cloud. So giving it away for free was a good adoption strategy. But unfortunately the vCloud Data Center program failed… I cannot go into why… Also for enterprises, Dev shops weren’t adopting it even though Lab Manager was dead because VCD didn’t have all the features of Lab Manager…

    4) It was/is still a complex interface – it didn’t flow well and ultimately that’s why VMware themselves, when they launched their ‘VMware Hybrid Cloud’ trial platform in the US, didn’t use their own interface! They realised it was too clumsy and complex so they wrote something simpler for the masses. One insider told me it was at that point the interface was doomed well before it was announced… so its demise has been on the cards for years.

    5) So now at this point VMware have a flash (dead) interface, very small enterprise adoption and mostly it doesn’t have the enterprise features, they aren’t even using it themselves and SPs are really the only ones using it but there’s no revenue to fund the unit because they gave it away in the VSPP. So the decision is, buy another company that has a portal (vCAC/vRealise) and shift VCD to the SP division because if we kill it all together we might lose the SPs totally, particularly the big ones that integrated it to their own portals (see next point). But at the same time, VMware realised that they could not viably get the SPs to compete with AWS/Azure so they had to do something themselves, hence vCloud Air was born. (just go look at the timing…think late 2012/early 2013)

    6) So in 2013, most of the SPs using the VCD interface are those that cannot afford to develop their own or buy something – but that’s the trick, those that can afford to develop/buy, make up a significant % of the VSPP revenue. So say the top 20% of VSPP SPs represent 80% of the revenue (I don’t know the exact numbers) and of the top 20%, 80% of those SP’s have their own portal because they are telcos etc that have merged VCD APIs with existing portals or written their own. So for the VMware SP business unit that own owns a non-revenue generating platform, facing a full rewrite to shift away from flash and make it more usable again doesn’t justify the return. Also those top revenue SPs are the ones that get a voice at the highest levels in VMware and influence the strategy, not the 1000’s of SPs on 3600 plans or less commenting in forums unfortunately. So those that have the most influence, don’t need an interface (i’m generalizing a bit)… and even if they used VCD extensively, they can probably afford to license something and replace it because VDC isn’t their main line of business (telco lines, outsourcing etc is)…

    7) So in 2014? VMware turn to the partners (ISVs) and suggest to the smaller SPs, go talk to some of our partners and buy their product. Flip the strategy and push it as an API layer to provide some standards to the SP community, keep very close tabs on the midlevel VSPP subscriptions and if you feel they are faltering, make sure you position vCloud Air to migrate, because if they use the vCloud APIs and connector, it should be pretty easy to get them into vCloud Air… pretty simple really…

    So I’d be surprised if they resurrect it – and if they do it shows that their strategy is all over the show. Its alive, its dead, its alive etc… Just remember, SP revenue makes up less than 10% of VMware’s… so it’s a pretty small voice. As I said in my tweet last night (and I’ve made a few calls internally to VMware contacts in the last six months) there is sure to be an announcement this VMworld, but no one will say which way… they are being very tight lipped about it.