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VMware strikes back: “Amazon’s tools promote cloud lock-in”

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When Amazon(s amzn) announced a VMware management portal for Amazon Web Services late Friday night, the countdown was on to see when VMware would respond. It took three whole days for VMware(s vmw) CTO Chris Wolf to post “Don’t Be Fooled By Import Tools Disguised as Hybrid Cloud Management” on Monday night. (The site was throwing error messages, however, so I wasn’t able to read it till Tuesday morning.)

Wolf warned that admins will find the AWS tool useful for importing VMs into Amazon and basic vCenter management tasks — but here comes the “but.” His contention — and he has valid points — is that basic management may be helpful now but “can can lead to increased lock-in down the road. The cloud service broker has to be multi-provider — vCloud Automation Center is today and has been for some time.”

Vcloud Automation Center, which grew out of VMware’s DynamicOps acquisition, does manage multiple environments, but the perception remains that for the “seamless” interoperability VMware always talks about, you need to run VMware products in-house and your service provider/cloud partner needs to run VMware products in its house as well. Cloud lock-in is a topic that will be front and center at Structure June 18-19. There, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, VMware SVP Bill Fathers and other cloud poobahs will be on hand.

Wolf continued:

“…the virtual machine is the easy part. Consider all of the management dependencies above as well as third-party integration. If you want to move those workloads or simply run additional instances in a region with no AWS presence, an outsourcer, another cloud provider, or your own data center, you may find that the cost and complexity associated with migration or a new deployment is too much. The service stack would likely be bound to proprietary APIs, and all or most of the third-party management and operational software will have to be replaced. You will be burdened with new QA challenges and likely will need to re-engage with the procurement teams.”

Clearly, Amazon, which is pouring more resources into winning enterprise workloads, struck a nerve. VMware launched vCloud Hybrid Services, its sort-of response to AWS, last fall, relying on an army of service providers and data center partners worldwide to give it AWS-like scale,as VMware SVP Bill Fathers told us on last week’s Structure Show (linked below.)

VMware pretty much owns the corporate data center when it comes to server virtualization and management — although Microsoft Hyper-V has made strides, as has KVM thanks to Red Hat(s rhat) and other proponents. Amazon, which is the market leader by far in public cloud,  uses a flavor of Xen virtualization. So the cloud is a whole different ball of wax.

Wolf said customers should opt for a “de facto” standard (aka VMware) and rely on VMware’s OpenStack support if they want to mix-and-match services. As Fathers put it, enterprise cloud decisions should not be based on price. Given this new free tool from Amazon for VM admins, along with the relentless price cuts on cloud storage and compute by Amazon, Microsoft and Google, you can see why that will have to be VMware’s story going forward.

To hear VMware’s Fathers’ on the state of VMware’s cloud and the competitive landscape, check out the Structure Show podcast, starting at around minute eight.

9 Responses to “VMware strikes back: “Amazon’s tools promote cloud lock-in””

  1. randyb

    Pot. Kettle. Neither of these businesses really have any right to discuss the value or non-value of “lock-in”. Both of them have huge investments in locking their customer bases up tight. I expect this to continue to escalate as I predicted here:

    And here:

    The fundamental challenge that AWS represents to VMW is that it can be “good enough” to carry ~80% of existing legacy workloads. That 80% represents a massive challenge to VMW’s growth both because VMW has reached a saturation point within the enterprise and also because the cost structure of most VMW deployments is so high that it will inherently difficult to win a TCO analysis between the two approaches.

    There are ways out for VMware, but they require more boldness than we have seen so far. Hail Mary plays like vCHS miss the forest for the trees. The public cloud battle is already basically over.

    • Jamie Costello

      Randy – in fairness to AWS, they have never mentioned anything about lock-in. The only official AWS communication was Jeff Barr’s blog, that simply describes the product. It does not talk about lock-in (or lack thereof) at all. VMware’s official response talked about lack of lock-in with VMW, which sounds ironic and lacks credibility. So I do not think your “pot calling the kettle black” comment is fair to AWS.

      The rest of your post makes sense.

    • sebastianstadil

      … and the remaining 20% is either being left alone and gotten rid of through attrition, or rebuilt from scratch as cloud-native applications.

      Neither option is appealing to VMware.

  2. It’s funny that VMWare are warning about lock-in when VMWare has one of the more onerous enterprise licensing schemes around – very expensive and restrictive, with massive lock-in once you get involved. But then that’s their business model just as it is with AWS getting you to use their proprietary products (especially things like data stores, which are more difficult to migrate away from).

    The only reason vendors release these kind of integrations is to make it easier to move to them – why would they do it the other way?

    • Cloud Insider

      Agree with David. VMware just loses credibility by trying to position themselves as not wanting lock-in. Also agree with Jamie. The ease of use and free aspects might be enough to get customers.

  3. Lynn LeBlanc

    For IT shops that want robust management and 2-way migration between VMware and Amazon, consider HotLink. It’s a VMware Ready plug-in that enables AWS resources to be natively managed by VMware vCenter including hybrid cloning, migration, shapshots, templates, workload conversion and more. There’s even a disaster recovery and business continuity version (

  4. Jamie Costello

    VMware does not focus on multi-cloud management, its multi-cloud support is known to be a joke. And further, everyone knows that VMware is as keen on lock-in.

    When migrating from on-premises to vCHS, all the same issues will apply too. They would need to re-install the dependent software, and reconfigure them. Besides since AWS migrates the entire disk, if the dependencies are within the disk they will move over just fine.

    AWS provides basic management, true. But it is all free and easy to setup and use. VMware’s vCAC and VCOPS are heavyweight and difficult to setup, requires considerable on-going maintenance, and are expensive. While it remains to be seen, it is a fair guess that customers would be OK with the simplicity of what AWS provides (and hard to beat free :-)).