Finlay believes that customers are caught between the desire to use the "full service" public clouds offered by AWS and Azure and the need to leverage the skills and expertise they have built up using VMware environments as well as the investments they have made in VMware's software. "Customers understand VMware, so if they can use it in AWS, and access the extra services (which aren't available in vCloud Air) then that is bound to be of interest to VMware customers," he says.
VMware, for its part, seems happy to acknowledge that its customers can get more from an AWS cloud running VMware software than they can from vCloud Air. "Previously customers were forced to choose between having a private could on-prem – but not having the benefits of AWS, or having the amazing things in AWS but then they couldn't take advantage of VMware. They told us they wanted both," says VMware's Mark Lohmeyer.
He goes on to explain that customers using VMware infrastructure in AWS will continue to be VMware customers, and will be billed by VMware. But they will be able to connect to any of the 80+ AWS cloud services as well, which they would access as AWS customers, and pay AWS accordingly. Customers would therefore manage their VMware infrastructure via a VMware console — vCenter — and their AWS services from an AWS console. But in the future VMware aims to bring the management of the two environments together on a single console, says Lohmeyer.
There's also a sense that by joining forces with AWS the company is drinking at the last-chance cloud saloon. That's because enterprises are increasingly dropping long-held objections to using the public cloud — for example for security or compliance reasons — so there is less and less reason to think about servers or, by extension, virtualized servers. Instead, IT departments are encouraged to think about computer resources waiting for them in the cloud. (It's certainly true that those cloud computer resources are themselves virtualized servers, but Amazon uses Xen rather than VMware software for that.)
That kind of thinking is dangerous for VMware, says Finlay. "Longer term, VMware certainly faces a challenge: if companies are abstracting away from virtual machines, VMware has to find some play there. If they can get their customers onto this (AWS-based) solution, it has something to work with in the future."
In fact, VMware is unlikely to restrict itself to a partnership with AWS, and Lohmeyer confirms that: "Customers should have the freedom to choose the cloud that's right for them. We will do different things with different partners, using a wide range of (public) clouds."
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