VMware faces uphill climb against Amazon, others in public cloud market

Some wonder if VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service packs the punch to take on Amazon Web Services

A week after VMware launched its much anticipated vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) at its annual VMworld conference, experts have now had time to reflect on the company's cloud strategy and now have some questions. Perhaps the biggest is: Does the offering pack enough punch to take on the heavyweights in the industry, most notably Amazon Web Services?

A week after VMware launched its much anticipated vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) at its annual VMworld conference, experts have now had time to reflect on the company’s cloud strategy and now have some questions. Perhaps the biggest is: Does the offering pack enough punch to take on the heavyweights in the industry, most notably Amazon Web Services?

[MORE VWMARE: Are enterprises ready for network virtualization?]

Some believe that VMware doesn’t need to take on AWS.

“Today vCHS and AWS are addressing different types of applications and different types of customers. Instead of being an offensive move against Amazon, vCHS is first a defensive move,” wrote Jerry Chen, a partner at venture firm Greylock Partners in an article titled, “VMware: Too big to fail? Or too big to succeed?” With VMware facing increased pressure in its core virtualization market from Microsoft, this new hybrid cloud offering gives customers a way to “extend” their data centers in the cloud.

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger acknowledges AWS as a competitor in the cloud, but the offerings from the two companies have different customers in mind. Amazon Web Services, as described by research firm Gartner in its annual Magic Quadrant report, is ideal for large-scale batch computing jobs in which a large amount of compute resources are needed, sometimes for just a short period of time. VMware, instead is focusing its marketing efforts on the hybrid nature of connecting on-premises VMware-powered virtual machines into its cloud.

Gartner analyst Kyle Hilgendorf, who tracks the IaaS market, says launching vCHS is a move VMware had to do given the lack-luster performance of its vCloud Director product, which is a software platform for service providers to make their own public clouds, which the company has vowed to continue to support even with vCHS in the market now. VMware essentially took the issue into its own hands by offering vCHS to provide its enterprise customers a public cloud platform itself. Given the company’s wide use as a virtualization and private cloud platform in the enterprise, it has a chance to succeed in the public cloud arena, Hilgendorf says.

“I think long term, many organizations will not be able to avoid using it in some capacity,” he wrote in a blog post. “Even some of the largest AWS adopters will find a place where vCHS shines past AWS.” The ability to easily transfer pools of virtual machines between an on-premises deployment and VMware’s public cloud could be one of the platform’s greatest selling points, for example.  

Analysts say there is enough room in the market for both AWS and VMware, along with a host of other providers that are looking to claim market share. “Most organizations will want at least two to three strategic IaaS partners for properly placing workloads based on individual requirements,” Hilgendorf wrote. “With the saturation of VMware in the enterprise, vCHS will surely be a logical endpoint for many of those workloads. But vCHS will come with a ramp up and improvement period.”

A ramp up period means that the company is still working out some kinks in the product. Jack Clark at The Guardian, for example, points out that there is no storage component to vCHS analogous to Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) or Elastic Block Storage (EBS).

Then there is the issue of how other hypervisors will be supported in the cloud platform. VMware has taken strides to embrace the heterogeneous hypervisor environments that seem to be more commonplace nowadays. “As attractive as VMware's hybrid service might be to its existing customers, it's not going to be a cakewalk. First, there's the problem of all the other hypervisors,” wrote Brian Pontiff at ReadWriteWeb.

The issue of hypervisor support highlights the somewhat tricky situation VMware could find itself in, Enterprise Management Associates analyst Torsten Volk says. On the one hand, VMware supports multi-hypervisor and multi-cloud environments through its network virtualization platform named NSX and its cloud management tools; while at the same time it is encouraging customers to use its new vCHS public cloud offering. It’s a balancing act between the two.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Read his Cloud Chronicles here.

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