VMware takes its best shot at cloud market

At VMWorld 2014, the cloud is a central theme, but company still has a lot of work to do.


VMware this week at its annual U.S. VMworld conference has focused intently on cloud computing, trying to prove that it is uniquely positioned as an Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider to deliver a consistent management platform across public, private and hybrid clouds. This builds on VMware’s recent vow to become a Top 3 cloud provider.

To back up its marketing, VMware this week has unveiled a slew of product news, including OpenStack support and new public cloud functions. It needed to do so, according to industry watchers and the company itself, since VMware is still in the earliest stages of executing its ambitious cloud strategy.

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To understand VMware’s cloud strategy, it’s helpful to consider it in the context of the company’s broader vision. VMware has a three-pronged approach to IT management that it rolled out a year and a half ago and that it continues to talk about at this year’s VMWorld. The first part is the software-defined data center. VMware is known for virtualizing the compute layer through its ESX hypervisor. Now it wants to do the same for network and storage. For network virtualization, the company’s NSX platform is emerging as a formidable software-defined networking tool. And the company has rolled out vSAN for virtualized storage.

To deliver the applications that run atop VMware’s software, the company formed its End User Computing division. VMware has built up this group significantly over the past year via buyouts, including: the $1.5 billion purchase of AirWatch, a major provider of enterprise mobile device management software; the acquisition of Desktone and its desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) software; and the purchase of Cloud Volumes, which helps deliver virtualized applications.

Sitting between the software-defined data center and the end user computing tools is the cloud, and that's where VMware has focused much of its attention at VMWorld. 

On the private cloud side, the company already has tools for customers to extend their virtualized environment into a private cloud. The main products in this category are vSphere and vCenter, which help companies create and manage virtual machines. VMware this week added to that collection with vRealize, a packaging of the company’s management tools across compute, network and storage virtualization. And perhaps most notably, the company announced support for OpenStack in its cloud management tools.

VMware also put some meat on its previously bare-bones public cloud offerings. This service was introduced a year ago and named vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS); its focus was being a landing spot for ESX workloads in the public cloud. Many initial use cases were around disaster recovery. 

Just before this week’s VMWorld, the company rebranded its public cloud as vCloud Air and during the VMWorld day one keynote it announced many new features that would be coming soon to its cloud, including:

  • On-demand, pay-as-you-go pricing by the minute of virtual machines
  • Mobile application development services
  • Devops and continuous integration support
  • Database support
  • Object storage support

Though company officials were vague about the pricing and availability of these services, the offerings do mark important milestones for VMware’s cloud plans. VMware is hoping to give legitimate competition to Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft in the IaaS market with vCloud Air.

Analysts at VMWorld applauded the company for taking the necessary strides for vCloud Air to be a compelling service offering for enterprise workloads, beyond the basic backup and recovery use cases it has been used mostly for thus far.

Bill Fathers, executive vice president of Hybrid Cloud for VMware, said the company wants its vCloud Air to be a landing spot not just for VMware workloads that are looking for a home in the public cloud. He wants vCloud Air to host new applications developed for mobile devices and for ones crafted in a devops environment. He claims that the service differs from what’s available from the likes of Amazon and Google because those companies don’t have private cloud platforms to go along with their public clouds.

As VMware looks to execute its software-defined data center strategy, it’s clear that cloud will be a central platform to deliver to customers. With intense competition from many others in the market, such as Red Hat’s efforts to capitalize on OpenStack for the private cloud and Amazon, Google and Microsoft showing no signs of slowing down on the public cloud front, VMware will have its work cut out for it.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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