vCloud Hybrid Services lift off

To cloud or not to cloud? That has been the question dogging the global leader in virtualization software for some time now. But at this year’s VMworld user conference, VMware launched a public cloud offering fittingly named to reflect the company’s stand on the public vs. private cloud service debate — vCloud Hybrid Service.

VMware is a later entrant into the public cloud space. With an early lead in the marketing of virtualization technology and dominance in the hypervisor and cloud management arenas, the company has focused on helping customers build out private cloud capabilities. As CEO Pat Gelsinger noted at VMworld 2013, though the market is “now at 70 percent virtualization, we won’t be satisfied until it is 100 percent.” Gelsinger’s statement of purpose implies significant ongoing opportunity in the private cloud realm, and the company continues to invest in development of the “software defined data centre,” notably in virtual storage (vSAN), vSphere and the vCloud management suite as well as in software defined networking, NSX representing another key announcement at the company’s tenth annual user summit. But to address growing client interest in the benefits that public cloud can bring, and to ensure customer adherence to the VMware platform, the company has also invested in a hybrid service that Gelsinger claimed will deliver “any app, any place, no compromise,” which features the same management, and common networking, security and support as in VMware’s private cloud platform.

Bill Fathers, SVP and GM, vCloud Hybrid Services, VMware
Bill Fathers, SVP and GM, vCloud Hybrid Services, VMware

Outlining the value proposition of VMware’s new public cloud service, Bill Fathers, SVP and GM of the Hybrid Cloud Services Business Unit at VMware, stressed the seamless interoperability between VMware’s on-premise clouds and the new service. Fathers explained: “we have been very focused on taking advantage of all the applications that are certified already on vSphere, and of existing infrastructure that we have made investments in, in order to be able to move applications or develop new applications on this platform. Certainly around seamless networking, we are going to make sure you can extend your existing network into vCloud Hybrid Service while taking advantage of all existing security policies that you already have in place.” Customers will be able to use the same cloud management tools on-premise and in the Hybrid Service, he added, and with private and public environments delivered by the same vendor, they will benefit from “one, single point of accountability” — a “very unique and important factor for many of our clients.”

So what are the new elements of the vCloud Hybrid Service? Built on vSphere to allow customers to use the same skills, tools, and networking and security models across both on-premise and off-premise environments, the new service capabilities include:

* Direct Connect, which allows customers to connect their data centre networks directly to the service via a VPN;

* Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service, which automatically replicates customer data and apps to provide rapid, automated recovery in case of an outage (available in beta in Q4);

* Support for Cloud Foundry, PaaS provided by Pivotal (a VMware spin off now managed by former VMware CEO Paul Mauritz) which features advanced data management and analytics based on Greenplum and EMC technologies that can accommodate Hadoop and other Big Data applications. Since Cloud Foundry is open source, users of the vCloud Hybrid Service will not need to re-architect applications to run on the public cloud, and may also avoid vendor lock in on proprietary cloud APIs to more easily port data.

* Horizon View Desktop-as-a-Service, the ability to run VMware’s end user computing platform on the Hybrid Service for rapid deployment of desktops without CAPEX investment or management of additional physical infrastructure. (Q4 availability).

According to Fathers, there has been “good response to the Early Access Program,” delivered through strategic partners CDW, SHI, Presidio, ePlus, and Insight. To meet anticipated demand for the new Hybrid Service, VMware expects to bring new channel partners on board and is also expanding its own service capabilities. At the event, the company announced it was pushing Hybrid Services delivery beyond its Las Vegas location to data centres in Santa Clara, California, Sterling, Virginia, and Dallas, Texas. A key distribution strategy is VMware’s extended partnership with Savvis, a cloud service provider with significant data centre footprint across North America, which has built its cloud and managed hosting services on the vCloud platform and which benefits from the secure, low latency network services provided by its corporate parent, CenturyLink. The first Savvis locations to go live with Hybrid Services will be in Chicago and New Jersey.

VMware’s impressive expansion plans for the Hybrid Service highlight one of the company’s key strengths — the ability to muster a dynamic partner ecosystem to drive technology adoption. But they are also based on anticipated potential to leverage VMware’s existing, 500,000 strong customer base. In his presentation at VMworld 2013, Fathers was clear to distinguish VMware’s new service from other commodity clouds: VMware is positioning vCloud Hybrid Service as an extension of its ‘software defined data centre’ strategy as opposed to an alternative to private cloud infrastructure, targeting current clients first with the offer of enterprise class, secure public cloud resources. For a detailed discussion of VMware’s positioning in the crowded IaaS marketplace, issues around data portability, management of multi-hypervisor environments, and the business models behind the new Hybrid Service, see the accompanying video interview with Angelos Kottas. “From a share of wallet” perspective, Kottas explained, the new infrastructure service provides VMware with an “opportunity to be much more strategic in our customers’ budgets.” Will the hybrid management message prove compelling enough to enable VMware to command more of customer budgets, or will users run with public offerings that may be better ensconced in the marketplace? Stay tuned…


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