VMware has been in the crosshairs of analysts and industry pundits who think the company is the modern day mainframe. Similar to the mainframe, VMware's primary virtualization suite will begin to shrink and only support the oldest of legacy client-server applications.
I don't think VMware would agree that it is ceding the enterprise to the public cloud. VMware wants the industry to believe that it is the perfect company to help businesses transition to what it coined as the cloud-native application architecture. I'll explore VMware's strategy for the enterprise cloud space vs. that of a public cloud provider, specifically Amazon's AWS platform.
The AWS model
Ultimately, AWS and VMware deliver IT infrastructure to IT consumers. An instance of Windows Server 2012 is more or less the same regardless if it runs in Amazon's data center or within a VMware vSphere cluster. AWS is disruptive to VMware's virtualization business because it approaches IT from a completely different perspective.
Amazon caters to enterprise developers and changes how developers consume resources. In the AWS model of cloud, the developer has complete control of provisioning resources. Amazon has designed its infrastructure in such a way that the average developer could get a web-facing application up in a short period of time. AWS eliminates most, if not all, of the friction between the application developer and the infrastructure.
Amazon's model appeals to startups or organizations looking to make a clean break from their existing infrastructure. The AWS model is less appealing to organizations looking to integrate their existing VMware environment with a cloud provider.
The VMware vCloud Air experience
VMware's vCloud Air caters to organizations that are not ready to give full control of the infrastructure over to the application development team by providing a public cloud experience that resembles vSphere. VMware vCloud Air leverages vSphere technology, and therefore requires skill in configuring vSphere infrastructures.
I spoke with my son Marcus Ramsey, a Senior at DePaul University who majors in Computer Science, about his experience at a hackathon at VMworld 2015. He was surprised that he needed to use both vSphere-like networking and security to get his project configured; he was expecting a more AWS-like experience. (AWS hides the complexity of the infrastructure from the developer.)
The vCloud Air consumption experience is by design. vCloud Air is at the heart of the IT enterprise infrastructure team. The solution allows enterprises to extend the vSphere solution to the public cloud in the most seamless way. The design also lets data center managers take advantage of seemingly endless public cloud resources without changing the established processes for provisioning and consuming cloud resources.
VMware does offer direct APIs as a method to consume vCloud Air; however, this isn't the focus of the VMware cloud-native message. VMware is positioning projects including VMware Photon and VMware Integrated OpenStack as the basis of its cloud-native initiative; these projects would start in a customer's existing vSphere environment and eventually extend to vCloud Air. Developers would have the API-level access to the infrastructure by leveraging tools and technologies familiar in today's data center.
Neither vCloud Air or AWS is seeing exponential growth in the enterprise. VMware is hoping containers adoption ignites interest in the cloud-native application and then vCloud Air.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Which model of cloud consumption best fits your organization? Let us know in the comments.
Keith Townsend is a technology management consultant with more than 15 years of related experience designing, implementing, and managing data center technologies. His areas of expertise include virtualization, networking, and storage solutions for Fortune 500 organizations. He holds a BA in computing and a MS in information technology from DePaul University.