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Why VMware's hybrid cloud announcement could be a big deal

VMware is launching a public cloud, creating a hybrid cloud offering for customers. Is this the Amazon cloud killer?

By , Network World
March 14, 2013 03:32 PM ET

Network World - Perhaps the biggest selling point for VMware's newly announced hybrid cloud strategy -- and the reason it could be a game changer in the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) market -- is because of the common platform VMware customers will now have between their private cloud internal systems and this new VMware-operated public cloud.

Consistency across the private and public cloud environments could make it easier for users to achieve what some consider the nirvana of the cloud: a hybrid cloud that incorporates an on-premises private cloud with a hosted public cloud, allowing applications to scale between either environment based on resource need.

That's what VMware's hoping to offer customers, analysts say. Whether that becomes a reality, is still the big question.

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The idea of having a common platform between your public and private clouds is not new. Microsoft, for example, offers Windows Systems Center to manage behind-the-firewall IT, and Windows Azure as its public cloud -- it's all within the Microsoft family. OpenStack has this option too; Rackspace, for example, has a private cloud offering that lets customers deploy the same OpenStack platform that the company uses for its public cloud on their own premises. Even Amazon Web Services -- the giant in the IaaS market -- has partners, like Eucalyptus, which claim to be the private-cloud equivalent of AWS.

In announcing a public cloud, VMware is smoothing the path for customers to get to that "hybrid cloud nirvana" of having public and private cloud resources dynamically working together, says Forrester Research virtualization guru David Bartoletti. So is this an Amazon killer then? "Absolutely not," says Gartner analyst Chris Wolf. "It's more of a VMware survival tool, allowing them to live another day." VMware had to make this move, he says: "Operating like a traditional software vendor in the cloud era is not a recipe for long-term success."

But that doesn't mean customers will immediately gobble up infrastructure as a service (IaaS) from VMware. The company has some challenges rolling the product out, Bartoletti says. For one, Amazon Web Services has made its hay appealing to developers who jump ship from IT to get fast, cheap access to virtual machines and storage. VMware will likely be going after a very different audience: the infrastructure, virtualization and ops folks in IT shops. But how do they feel about embracing the cloud? Some see cloud computing as a threat to their own jobs and have questions about security, compliance and whether the cloud is ready for mission-critical apps.

In some ways, VMware has an advantage over other IaaS cloud providers because of the common management platform, though. "They can go to the infrastructure operators in IT shops and say, 'hey, all your management tools are right here,'" Bartoletti explains. VMware has had public cloud offerings through its vCloud Director partner ecosystem, but that's garnered disappointing market adoption; a VMware-owned and -operated public cloud could have a different market presence, he says.

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