VMworld 2015

How VMware aims to distinguish itself in the cloud

VMware is playing catch-up with Amazon and Microsoft -- and playing to its strengths

vmworld 2015

VMworld 2015

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VMware VP of Cloud Services Mathew Lodge acknowledges that the virtualization vendor “got started later than other folks” in the IaaS public cloud market, but he flatly denies that the company is slowing investment in this area. VMware’s position is that while it has catching up to do with cloud market leaders Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, it also has strengths that can make it stand out.

VMware used its annual VMworld conference in San Francisco this week to show off some of those differentiators, and teased more advances to come. 


The company’s cloud strategy centers around VMware’s Unified Hybrid Cloud platform, as CEO Pat Gelsinger stressed in a pre-VMworld interview with Network World.

Private cloud building blocks include the flagship vSphere virtualization platform and newer offerings such as the EVO hyperconverged infrastructure. On the public cloud side, VMware has rapidly built up vCloud Air over the past two years, and just this week, added an object storage service and aired plans to launch a database-as-a-service offering.

VMware’s differentiator in the hybrid cloud, however, is what sits between those private and public clouds. This includes a common management platform, and even more importantly, advanced networking technology.

+ MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: VMware CEO discusses the state of virtual networking, feuding with Cisco, and the state of the EMC Federation | +

Two years ago VMware spent $1.1 billion to buy Nicira – an acquisition that Gelsinger acknowledges strained relations between VMware parent EMC and long-time partner Cisco. But it also provided VMware NSX, a virtual networking product of which Version 6.0 debuted this week.

NSX allows VMware to have a common networking platform on customers’ premises and its public cloud. A demo during the VMworld keynote presentation showed the ability to transfer a virtual machine from an on-premises cloud to vCloudAir on the fly. This cross-cloud vMotion capability, which VMworld attendees greeted with thunderous applause, is powered by NSX.


Even as VMware vies to differentiate itself in the cloud, Gelsinger has made this point in recent weeks: For VMware to win, Microsoft and Amazon don’t have to lose.

Some workloads might very well make sense to run in an Amazon-style cloud. In such cases, VMware still wants to provide the management platform.

VMware President and COO Carl Eschenbach said at VMworld: “It’s not like we have our heads in the sand… We want to be a purveyor of automating workloads across multiple clouds.”

This is an area that the entire industry needs to improve upon, however. Both VMware and competitor Microsoft talk of the need to manage competing public cloud platforms, but at this point, such capabilities are nascent. 

In the meantime, VMware will continue to build up its vCloudAir public cloud offerings. Cloud Services VP Lodge says that in the past 24 months the company has gone from having one data center to 11 across the globe, and has more on the way.

VMware works with partners to provide complementary vCloudAir services as well. The database-as-a-service offering it previewed this week is focused on SQL, but Lodge says to expect additional database offerings in the future on vCloudAir. Other items on the roadmap include expanding VMware’s partnership with Google, to include integrations with Google cloud services like its BigQuery and DNS offerings.

VMware may not need AWS and Microsoft Azure to lose for it to win in the cloud. But it will need to deliver on what it announced at VMworld and keep going from there.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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