VMware Soups Up vCloud, Still Has PaaS Plans

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VMware’s enterprise cloud computing story got stronger Tuesday morning with the announcement that the first three vCloud Datacenter partners are now online and a new tool for managing hybrid VMware clouds is now available. Despite lots of talk from enterprise customers about being interested in the cloud, it appears that few have actually taken the plunge to any significant degree. Regardless whether they meet the strict definition of cloud computing pushed by some purists (see, e.g., this recent Wikibon post), these types of capabilities will bring enterprise users into the cloud fold, perhaps leading to even cloudier ambitions in the future.

The vCloud Datacenter program was announced during VMworld in late August along with several early partners, and now Verizon, BlueLock and Colt are online and ready to start serving enterprise cloud customers. The primary difference between vCloud Datacenter and vCloud Express, VMware’s initial foray into service-provider partnerships, is that vCloud Datacenter clouds utilize a variety of vSphere, vCloud and vShield products and must meet VMware-defined levels of security and compliance. Among the tools utilized is vCloud Director, which lets customers turn all their on-premise and cloud-based VMs into a private cloud and includes capabilities such as self-service provisioning and chargeback. Other vCloud Datacenter partners not yet up and running are Terremark (recently bought by Verizon) and SingTel.

VMware also released vCloud Connector, a free vSphere plugin that provides a single interface for moving and managing applications across vSphere-based clouds. This includes, of course, the entire stable of vCloud Datacenter partners. As far as plug-ins go, vCloud Connector is pretty significant; Mathew Lodge, VMware’s senior director of cloud services, acknowledged that excitement around Connector has been surprisingly high, especially among day-to-day administrators. It’s understandable, though, because once IT has made the decision to roll out VMware-based cloud resources, Connector does enable hybrid cloud management, a capability often cited as a must-have for enterprise users.

But don’t let VMware’s catering to conservative enterprise IT types fool you. As anyone watching VMware over the past two years has noticed, it’s actually pushing the cloud envelope in certain areas, such as PaaS. Lodge explained that VMware “think[s] about the two markets [IaaS and PaaS] differently”: whereas IaaS is about moving existing applications to the cloud — the clear goal of most vCloud efforts thus far — there will be a “transformation of how applications are built” over the next 10 years. As companies begin rewriting existing applications and bringing new ones into play, they will start using more “true” cloud offerings such as PaaS, which VMware is already pushing via both the Spring framework for Java applications and an in-development multi-language PaaS offering called Cloud OS. Ultimately, Lodge said, VMware sees its Spring and PaaS business being “as big as” the IaaS business that encompasses its vCloud efforts.

Hearing this vision from VMware is nothing new — CEO Paul Maritz said as much at Structure last year — but seeing it actually take shape in the form of products is. With a respectable set of IaaS products and offerings now available, VMware customers, at least, should be starting their moves to the cloud. We’ll see how it takes before this business peaks and begins to converge with a rising PaaS business.

Photo courtesy Flickr user cote.

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