The case against the VMware-AWS deal

Pundits raise more questions after the big deal

cloud questions
Credit: Dennis Hill

There will always be antagonists.

In the hours that passed after VMware and Amazon Web Services announced one of the most significant recent partnerships in the cloud market, pundits on social media raised questions about what the arrangement means for enterprise customers.

+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: Winners and losers from the big VMware-AWS Pact | Oops, news of the VMware-AWS deal leaked early on a VMware Blog +

First, for a quick recap of the news: In a nutshell, AWS has dedicated a portion of it cloud infrastructure for running VMware’s core management software: vSphere (the ESXi hypervisor and virtualization management platform), vSAN (the virtual storage area network platform) and NSX (the virtual networking software). Customers can spin up three sizes of AWS on VMware and pay for it through a credit card or their existing VMware account. AWS is VMware’s “preferred” public cloud and VMware is AWS’s preferred private cloud, CEOs Andy Jassy of AWS and Pat Gelsinger of VMware said during the press conference.

Now for the reaction. Many analysts praised the deal, for both companies. Al Gillen, IDC analyst, on Twitter called it a "great deal" for VMware customers looking to extend workloads into the public cloud. Independent analyst Maribel Lopez summed it up well on Twitter: "Hybrid cloud was difficult to manage. AWS and VMware partnership makes it easier." 

Others are not so sure. The main argument being made against the AWS-VMware deal is that using the public cloud is not just about lifting and shifting existing applications to the cloud – as this partnership allows - it’s about embracing a new platform, which requires a new mindset.

“Existing VM portability to AWS helps IT, but doesn't enable digital transformation (app modernization),” Tweeted Wikibon analyst Stu Miniman, who also noted that he’s withholding full judgment on the VMware-AWS partnership until all the details are available next year.

Independent analyst and blogger Kurt Marko thought that the announcement “confuses” AWS’s strategy. The company up until this deal has been focused almost solely on the public cloud and getting customers to move there. It’s been almost dismissive of the private cloud. AWS CEO Andy Jassy is known for saying that “in the fullness of time” that most workloads will be in the public cloud. The company is growing by double-digit percentages year over year with no signs of slowing down. So why change the message and embrace private and hybrid clouds?

AWS VMware IaaS cloud Andy Jassy Pat Gelsinger AWS

AWS CEO Andy Jassy, left, and VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger in San Francisco on Thursday October 13 announced VMware on AWS. 

In a press conference announcing the deal, Jassy and VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said they’re doing it because customers have requested it. Not everyone is buying that it’s good for customers though. “MyPOV: The #VMWonAWS partnership is not a slam dunk for enterprises,” wrote AVOA CIO Advisor Tim Crawford on Twitter, noting that it brings up “more questions than clear opportunities.”

Gartner analyst Kyle Hilgendorf follows along that line of thinking: “Still wondering why I would put VMW inside of AWS vs VMW inside a neutral co-lo and direct connect,” he noted on Twitter. “World is going multi-cloud not AWS-only.”

Keith Townsend, @CTOAdvisor on Twitter, was hoping for more from the partnership. “It doesn't solve the problem of building a hybrid infrastructure,” he wrote at TechRepublic. “Missing in the announcement were advanced tools for integration of the VMware Cloud on AWS with other AWS products… There's also the inverse challenge. VMware Cloud on AWS doesn't bring a private version of AWS to VMware infrastructure. Customers wanting a serverless computing option that leverages private data center resources still have to look toward solutions such as (Microsoft) AzureStack. I'm expecting more meat on the bone from both VMware and AWS.”

While many believe that VMware is a winner in the deal, Constellation Research’s Holger Mueller questions just how much VMware won. “No matter how you spin this, VMware is losing load on premises for a variety of reasons already, at the same time it will not be able to command the same pricing levels when running e.g. on AWS than when running VMware on premises,” he notes in a blog post. “It’s different times and with that I see a longer term losing hand for VMware.”

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