Weekly Update

3 reasons why VMware won’t be impactful in the public cloud space

Considering the number of emails and phone calls I received requesting meetings, a ton of people must have thought I was at VMworld last week. I was not. Indeed, I’ve never been. Why not? There is not a lot of cloud stuff there, despite the fact that I’m sure the term “cloud” was mentioned every 11 seconds during that conference. The fact of the matter is that, while VMware is pretty much systemic to most of the enterprise architectures I work on, it’s rarely on the radar screens these days when it comes to public cloud computing, and sometimes private cloud.

This is not an attempt to take anything away from VMware, or their market penetration in the virtualization space. Of course, virtualization does not a cloud make, and thus they need to reinvent themselves to be viable in the emerging cloud space.  This was perhaps the objective of this year’s VMworld, but they have not made their case to me, or to those who are considering cloud computing, and perhaps even to their own customers, according to reports out of the conference.

VMworld is not small event.  There are nearly 25,000 customers and partners there, all looking for some sort of thought leadership from VMware in the emerging cloud computing space, as well as software-defined data centers.  In other words, how they plan to beat Amazon Web Services, so enterprises won’t have to change sales reps.

There are a few things occurring right now that has VMware concerned:

First, AWS is moving into VMware’s territory by gaining large enterprise accounts.  Most did not think that AWS would be effective in the larger enterprises.  That does not seem to be the case.  While AWS is awkward within larger enterprise IT shops, they are figuring things out pretty quickly.  This is a direct threat to VMware, as well as IBM, HP, Oracle, etc..

Second, VMware partners who make a ton of money from selling and supporting VMware technology are getting a bit tired of waiting for VMware to do cloud right.  While they talk a good game, most who sell VMware have yet to see the promised killer cloud computing products, and could move on to other players of they don’t get their cloud computing act together.

So, back to the VMworld event.  The big news was that vCloud Hybrid Services is now widely available and supports the open-source Cloud Foundry platform as a service.  Cloud Foundry, as you may recall, started off as a VMware project before it moved to Pivotal.

So, what about OpenStack?  While OpenStack is 3 years old, VMware has not made it clear how they will, or if they will support OpenStack.  Many in the OpenStack community are suspicious of VMware, assuming they could be paying their dues to get an inside position to either control OpenStack, or kill OpenStack.  I suspect the true objective is the latter, based upon the techno-dribble that’s been coming out of VMware since they signed up.

The whole thing is a bit confusing to me and others as well.  As Barb Darrow reports, “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.”

So, what does this boil down too in terms of VMware providing a competitive public cloud computing solution, or not?  I have three reasons why their push to the cloud won’t be as impactful as many VMware customers, partners, and VMware executives would like.

Reason 1: VMware is too late to the public cloud. 

They really needed to begin their cloud computing journey years ago, setting course for the public cloud, with true private clouds as their jumping off point.  However, many did not drink the cloud computing Kool-Aid until it was too late.  While they are spending money and time to build something impactful, they will find that Amazon just has too much of a head start.  The parts of the market Amazon won’t get will have HP, IBM, Microsoft, Google, and others after that small slice.  VMware won’t stand much of a chance.

Reason 2:  VMware has too much legacy to deal with. 

One of the great things about Amazon Web Services is that, 10 years ago, they were mostly selling stuff, not cloud services.  Thus, they don’t have thousands of existing customers to deal with…customers who insist that they and their needs are considered in any technology roadmaps.  Thus the technology from VMware will be less than impressive in comparison, due to the legacy technology holding them back.

Reason 3:  Little or no thought leadership in the company. 

VMware was indeed innovative in virtualization, and thus they drove that market growth.  However, in the cloud space, it’s a very different story.  They don’t seem to be leading any thought in the industry, and don’t seem at all innovative.

While the Pivotal play is a step in the right direction, they really need 10 steps in the right direction at this point.  In the world of cloud computing, it’s an absolute imperative that you drive value through innovation, and not just market share.

I suspect VMware won’t go broke anytime soon, considering their huge market share and interest in the technology.  However, if they are aiming for the larger public cloud market, they may have to get good at stuff they are not good at now, or stick with things inside of enterprises.