VMware dominated headlines last week — as nearly 25,000 customers and partners flocked to VMworld 2013 to hear the company’s software defined data center pitch and how it will attack cloud computing in the Amazon Web Services era. AWS, after all, started out as the game-changer cloud for startups but is gaining momentum among enterprise accounts where VMware’s server virtualization is entrenched. VMware needed to make a case that it can do better outside customer firewalls than it has to date.
The big if unsurprising news was that vCloud Hybrid Services, VMware’s answer to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, is now broadly available and embraces the open-source Cloud Foundry platform as a service — which after all started off as a VMware project before it moved to Pivotal. Less clear is what exactly VMware support for OpenStack will be. OpenStack launched more than 3 years ago as an open source response to VMware inside the data center (private clouds) and AWS in public cloud.
Since that time, VMware joined the OpenStack community by virtue of its purchase last year of Nicira. But the OpenStack cloud crowd is skeptical — to put it kindly — about whether VMware will throw its full weight behind the technology; ignore it or try to smother it. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger promised to support OpenStack through a component based approach with its NSX network virtualization, vSphere server virtualization and vSAN storage virtualization products. Not exactly sure what that means, really, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.
OpenStack pioneer Chris Kemp told GigaOM he was excited to see how VMware will use OpenStack but had some questions. “There’s a lot of technology that [VMware] built that, frankly, has no place in a cloud that’s powering cloud-native applications … and they’re going to have to reconcile that,” said Kemp, CEO of Nebula and former CTO of NASA.
Looking at the competitive landscape, VMware touts its push into storage and networking virtualization as the right thing for customers but it also put the hurt on existing relationships with networking and storage partners, most notably but not at all limited to Cisco . Obviously the whole notion of VMware virtualizing all the hardware in sight was fated to cross hardware-oriented partners (with the exception of VMware mothership EMC).
Here’s the main takeaway. Legacy IT vendors — including VMware, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Cisco, HP, you name it — are scrambling to bring existing customers over to their respective version of cloud while also trying to preserve their base “on-premises” businesses. To do that they’re fighting not just Amazon but each other for more of that business. At the same time, Amazon, aka “the book seller,” doesn’t have that legacy IT to protect so it just keeps forging ahead.
My guess is that Amazon itself will eventually get disrupted — everyone does — but I don’t think it’s going to be by vCloud Hybrid Services. Microsoft Azure, with its scale and resources, has a better shot IMHO (provided it gets its house in order). Still more likely, Amazon’s nemesis will come out of left field. I mean, who saw Amazon coming 7 years ago?
Podcast plug: Listen up people!
Oh, and if you want to hear more from Nebula’s Kemp — not only about VMware and OpenStack, but the cool tech stuff NASA did behind closed doors (it did Google Glass-like stuff way before Google) and his experiences in weightlessness — check out our Structure Show podcast.
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