VMware and Amazon clouds: not as far apart as you think

What a difference a few months makes. In March, VMware’s CEO and COO implored VMware partners to sell its cloud vision because if those enterprise workloads were allowed to flow to Amazon(s amzn) Web Services “we’re all dead” — or words to that effect. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and VMware’s (s vmw) top cloud tech guy Raghu Raghuram sounded a more pragmatic (if not conciliatory) note, stressing customer desire for cloud cooperation, not warfare.
He acknowledged that customers want to move and manage workloads between VMware and AWS environments at the recent Gartner Catalyst Conference.

VMware and AWS: More friendly than thought?

VMware EVP Raghu Raghuram an on-stage Q&A with Gartner Analyst Chris Wolf, Raghuram also reminded attendees that vCloud Automation Center — based on VMware’s DynamicOps acquisition — already lets them deploy their VMware virtual machines to AWS.
“That’s a significant component of our on-prem solution today and we’ll continue to enhance that. Our goal is to enable our customers to take full advantage of hybrid cloud with choice. OpenStack is one dimension of choice and being able to deploy to multiple clouds is another dimension of choice,” he said.[/caption]
The bottom line, he added, is that customers want to “deploy applications based on well-defined governance and policy rules to any one of multiple locations — it could be AWS, it could be Azure(s msft), it could be vCloud Services, it could be your on-premise data center,” said Raghuram, executive VP of cloud infrastructure and management. He leads VMware’s software-defined data center push.  

The standard take on the cloud landscape goes something like this: Amazon Web Services rules in public clouds but lacks credibility for mission-critical enterprise applications. VMware is king of the enterprise data center but has a lot to prove in the cloud and is launching its  vCloud Hybrid Service, or VCHS to do this. But both camps want to move onto the other’s turf. As Wolf pointed out, AWS and VMware need each other to gain credibility.
There was also a tantalizing exchange during the session (viewable here, with registration) it went something like this:

  • Wolf:  “What if VMware and Amazon were to work together on seamless workflow? Our audience loves it — it’s a customer requirement.”
  • Raghuram: “How do you know we’re not working closely with them?”
  • Wolf: “We haven’t seen any results.”
  • Raghuram: “Stay tuned.”
  • Wolf: “Would you to elaborate on that?”
  • Raghuram: “Nope.”

The dangers of coopetition

Reached this week, Wolf said enterprise customers want far more than the ability to run VMware virtual machines on AWS. “Converting a VM is the easy part. What customers would really like is the ability to have a true single management layer for vSphere and AWS,” Wolf said via email.
He added that some third-party management products — like Enstratius, now part of Dell(s dell) — do some of this. “Clients would like to have consistent capacity management, performance management, configuration management, orchestration, etc between clouds. If Amazon offered a native VMware experience and supported the vCloud Suite management APIs, then customers could easily move workloads between environments while using their familiar VMware management tools. This also would open a new revenue stream for VMware — allowing it to sell vCloud Suite management tools for AWS workloads. This is an extreme example and would require Amazon to run the VMware ESXi hypervisor, for example.”
So VMware and AWS are in an interesting spot. And make no mistake: for VMware there is big risk. If AWS can run a native ESXi environment, Wolf wondered what would prevent it from trying to convert those customers to a “pure Amazon stack” including its Xen-based hypervisor and management in the future.
While Amazon has courted third-party management partners up till now, that could change. After all, AWS has shown itself to be nothing if not aggressive in expanding its services and capabilities over time.
Stay tuned, indeed.