Summary:

Will we see an Amazon-VMware team of rivals? Actual availability of the promised vCloud Hybrid Services cloud, a clarification of VCE status? Stay tuned for VMworld news.

As VMware gears up its major cloud computing onslaught and revs up its software-defined data center mantra, here’s what I’ll be listening for out of the big VMworld show kicking off Monday.

1: Collaboration or coopetition with Amazon Web Services: 

Vmware’s verbiage regarding AmazonWeb Services has, shall we say, evolved in recent months. In March, CEO Pat Gelsinger and COO Carl Eschenbach said any workload that moves to Amazon’s cloud is a loss to VMware and its ecosystem. Fast forward to late July when VMware EVP Raghu Raghuram hinted at broad cooperation between the two companies to come.

If an alliance is forthcoming, it would make sense to disclose at VMworld or at AWS: Reinvent in November.  Make no mistake, while huge competitors, the two also need each other. AWS needs enterprise credibility which VMware has and VMware needs to prove its cloud bona fides. Of course, any such alliance also poses risks to both — what self-respecting capitalist entity wants to share customers with a rival?

Of course, the AWS outage this weekend, could give VMware ammo if it wants to keep trash talking, but that’s a dangerous game if you’re trying to build a partnership.

2: vCloud Hybrid Services availability and traction:

VMware says its proposed vCloud Hybrid Services — it’s sorta-kinda answer to AWS but for corporate workloads only — has been available to a limited number of customers for a few months. We need to hear from some reference customers on the trial and about their plans to migrate enterprise workloads to this cloud.

And, since VMware promised  broad availability in the third quarter and the we’re well into that quarter now,  if VCHS isn’t all queued up and ready to roll, the company, already late to the cloud biz, had better have a good reason why. Tick tock, fellows.

3: Clarification of VCE’s future. 

The Virtual Computing Environment  effort launched in 2009 by Cisco, EMC and VMware remains a puzzler to many especially since VMware bought into software-defined networking with its $1.3 billion purchase last year of Nicira, putting it at odds with Cisco.  And Cisco hedged its bets early on with its NetApp Flexpod partnership.

Word trickled out late last week –just ahead of VMworld — that VCE cut four technical employees including Rob Markovic, a technology lead with the converged hardware effort. A VCE spokesman confirmed the cuts but said they are not part of a broader restructuring at the 1,400-person company. In February, the VCE partner companies announced that vBlock converged hardware business hit the $1 billion run rate but partners Cisco and EMC also took big losses on that business.

4: Can VMware stem the bleeding? 

VMware has seen an exodus of high-profile execs over the past year, starting with the transition of former CEO Paul Maritz out about a year ago as step one of his move to the EMC-VMware Pivotal spinoff.  Some of those exits were to be expected — Maritz took some people with him so they’re still under the umbrella held by parent company EMC.

Others left as VMware de-emphasized or sold off  “non-core” technologies like ZimbraSliderocket and Wavemaker etx. But the departure of other top executives — CTO Stephen Herrod, and especially former cloud infrastructure head Bogomil Balkansky, definitely contributed — right or wrong — to a perception of brain drain.

Update: On the inbound side, VMware on Monday brought former Microsoft CIO Tony Scott aboard as its CIO; and also recently named former SAP mobile guy Sanjay Poonen aboard to lead its end-user computing effort.

Gelsinger (pictured above) kicks off the show at 9 a.m. Monday with his keynote, so stay tuned.

This story was updated at 8:02 a.m. PDT with news of Tony Scott joining the company as CIO.

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