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How VMware aims to distinguish itself in the cloud

Brandon Butler | Sept. 3, 2015
VMware is playing catch-up with Amazon and Microsoft -- and playing to its strengths.

vmworld 2015
VMware said 23,000 are in attendance at Vmworld 2015 in San Francisco this week.  Credit: VMware

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.

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. 


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