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VMware's cloud strategy equal parts foggy, stormy

Bernard Golden | Aug. 22, 2013
With VMworld on the horizon, VMware has been touting its cloud strategy. That 'strategy,' though, seems to involve dissing Microsoft and Amazon, marginalizing CSP partners and clinging to the idea that the cloud is solely the domain of IT departments. If VMware keeps this up, it can expect a stormy future in the cloud, columnist Bernard Golden says.

Third, and most troubling from the perspective of a CSP, is where it now sits in the value chain. Clearly, the VMware hybrid vision is that on-premises is the most important infrastructure. Only if it proves unable to handle a workload will outside infrastructure be used.

The question for the CSP has to be this: If VMware offers the onsite technology, and offers its own cloud service, what's the rep's incentive to sell the external CSP service? It probably feels like the franchise partners are only going to catch the least desirable overflow.

Summed up, it's hard to understand how this hybrid vision would generate much enthusiasm in the CSP community. It's no surprise that many of them are evaluating OpenStack; after all, if VMware is going to be a provider and a competitor, finding a low-cost component that enables a CSP to chart a course independent of VMware probably looks pretty attractive.

VMware's Cloud Computing 'Vision' Not That Visionary
What I find most striking about the Gelsinger interview, however, is not the smug dismissal of competitors, nor the vastly diminished role of other participants in the VMware ecosystem, but the absolute lack of presence of workloads, developers or groups other than IT in VMware's vision of cloud computing. It's as though applications and all those associated with them are passive recipients of whatever VMware and its partners within IT deliver.

To say this blindness to the role of developers and business units is disturbing is to vastly understate it. After all, it's not like the growing importance of applications is a secret. Last year a senior Gartner analyst predicted, with a great deal of resulting publicity, that by 2017 over half of all IT spend would be controlled by the CMO, not the CIO.

Meanwhile, just this week, Forrester released a report on cloud developers, which found that they are younger, more willing to take risks, more engaged with business units and putting applications into production in cloud computing environments today. Compare that to VMware's cloud computing vision, where developers, applications and business units are nowhere to be seen.

The biggest challenge to VMware's business isn't its hybrid cloud strategy and ecosystem and the roles the various companies play within it. Participant squabbling about primacy of place, revenue sharing and support responsibility for a joint offering is as old as the technology industry itself.

The far greater challenge to VMware's business is VMware itself. By binding itself ever more tightly to its traditional buyer, and by willingly playing a role that attempts to reinforce the traditional buyer's chokehold on investment and deployment, VMware risks allying itself to what will, inevitably, be the losing side in the battle between operations and applications.


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