This article is the first of a series of two articles that will cover my opinion and analysis on VMware cloud strategy as announced at VMworld Europe 2016, it will specifically cover the VMware Cloud offering on Amazon AWS. The next article will cover VMware Cross-Cloud offering.
First of all, let me give you a bit of context. I came to VMworld as a disenchanted VMware aficionado that was helplessly looking at VMware as company with some great products but potentially in big troubles for the years to come ahead and with no clearly defined cloud strategy. Today’s keynote was exhilarating and invigorating. It gave me the hope that after all VMware is still able to somehow reinvent itself.
VMware Cloud on Amazon AWS
Like many other community members, I had welcomed the news of VMware Cloud on AWS with caution. Even if I saw initially that as an attempt to catch up with major cloud providers, I decided to refrain of posting any blog comments until there would be something official out.
My understanding of this offering is that anyone will be able to leverage Amazon AWS to extend their data center into a Cloud-based VMware SDDC offering. Announced for mid-2017, it will be soon possible to create cloud-based clusters in any of the Amazon AWS regions, exactly as if you would be selecting a region for your EC2 workloads or for your S3 object storage needs.
The offering consists of a full implementation of VMware SDDC stack, which means VMware ESXi (presumably 6.5) running on bare metal, storage provided by VSAN (presumably version 6.5 as well), networking provided by NSX (no clue on the versions, I’m not an NSX guy) and management through vCenter.
True Cloud Elasticity?
This offering provides true elasticity in the meaning that DRS and likely storage DRS have been adapted to support cloud “infinite compute” capabilities. The example of an imbalanced cluster was provided, to rebalance the cluster another host was dynamically added and this extra host, automatically provisioned on bare metal once again, was added to the cluster thus helping rebalance resources.
Interesting features were also an example of cross-AWS region workload migration. I am not certain to which extent the concept of AWS availability zones comes into play during the creation of a cluster, but we have to hope for some documentation to be published soon.
Two perspectives on this offering
The first one is from a strategic perspective. AWS is seeing fierce competition by Microsoft Azure, on the other hand Azure is the platform of predilection for traditional windows-based workloads and thus in the fight for market dominance on cloud-based windows workload placement, AWS and VMware are natural allies. AWS because of the compute and storage costs escaping to their competitor, VMware because of the costs incurred in licensing (Hyper-V / Azure Stack vs vSphere and other products).
The second one is from a workload category perspective. A majority of customers using VMware in their environment run traditional (shall I say legacy) applications that were not built to take in consideration cloud constraints, i.e. not built around Amazon Web Services (EC2 instances, Elastic Block Store or S3 storage, DynamoDB etc.). Also, a vast share of VMware customers have not yet adopted the DevOps operational model and their IT departments are still mainly operated by traditional systems administrators who have built great trust into VMware products yet are wary of cloud offerings, either by lack of knowledge on the topic or by distrust due to a variety of concerns. In my opinion, these customers form the bulk of the market that VMware is attempting to attract to their cloud on AWS offering.
Why can this offering be attractive to customers? For starters, the cloud consumption model transforms CAPEX into OPEX and thus allows for very easy divestment in case of issues: turn off the VMs and cut costs down nearly instantly. Enterprises are no longer bound by fixed investments into hardware. Another reason is that with the huge footprint of AWS, customers can leverage VMware Cloud on AWS to burst workloads off-premises and thus elegantly accommodate usage spikes without the need for costly investments. Finally, this service is sold and supported by VMware, therefore consumers can continue to engage with VMware as usual.
Many of us in this industry -especially storage people- are undeterred pessimists and given VMware record in cloud infrastructure one may be tempted to smirk at this offer and patiently await the “bring up the dead” call.
I will however for once take a different stance than I had. It seems that VMware have really done their homework into looking at how to strategically reorient the company and prepare it for the upcoming cloud era. It is crystal clear that VMware does not possess (and will likely never possess) the raw hardware horsepower that Amazon has, therefore they must look at other ways to unleash commercial potential in this new age.
This offering has been apparently thought at carefully, and the adoption of a full SDDC solution in the cloud may also mean additional revenues for VMware, were the consumers to also retrofit their infrastructure with SDDC components such as NSX to give an example.
Needless to say, many questions remain unanswered. We know nothing about pricing yet, nothing about requirements (there will have to be some way to connect an enterprise private cloud with this cloud-based environment).
Also, what about VMware current ecosystem – storage vendors, hardware vendors, etc? If VMware cloud on AWS gets adopted by the VMware consumers, how will this potentially impact vendors revenue. Think about potential loss of revenue due to workloads being spinned up in this cloud instead of DCs being physically provisioned on-premises. Ultimately, will this affect levels of engagement between vendors and VMware?
I received a blogger pass from VMware, which allows me to access the entire event at no cost. I did cover all my expenses here including travel, airplane fare, taxi and hotel. Yes, taxi because I hate metro. I am blogging out of my own will, without any obligation, and without any request from VMware. This article is independently written and represents only my personal opinions.