VMware announced at VMworld 2017 the availability of VMware Cloud on AWS, which leverages VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF). VCF was announced on stage at VMware 2016 with IBM as the go-to market partner; the VMware on AWS announcement a month later eclipsed the IBM news.

Some analysis presents the moves as a counter to Microsoft’s Azure Stack, though VCF and Azure Stack solve two different sets of problems.

SEE: Ebook–The cloud v. data center decision (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

VMware doubles down on vSphere

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger noted this year’s VMworld marks his 5th as CEO. One of Gelsinger’s first initiatives as CEO included jettisoning the Cloud Foundry-based Pivotal Labs.

Pivotal has been the brain child of Gelsinger’s predecessor Paul Maritz. With AWS growing as a challenger and, with private cloud upstarts Eucalyptus, CloudStack, and OpenStack threatening VMware’s private cloud offering, doubling down on vSphere seemed a bold bet.

SEE: Learning Cloud Computing with AWS (TechRepublic Academy)

Gelsinger’s bet paid off–vSphere revenues increased from $6B in 2014 to $7B in 2016. In the meantime, Eucalyptus was sold off to HPE and seems buried. The open source project CloudStack got eclipsed by OpenStack, which has yet to catch hold in the enterprise. VMware has continued its dominance in what Gelsinger calls private cloud.

While vSphere remains the foundation of the VMware private data center strategy, the company added two technologies to the core: The virtual storage product vSAN and the network virtualization product NSX have powered much of VMware’s growth the past two years. Coupled with its management software VMware calls the core of the company’s technology software defined data center or SDDC.

Software defined data center

Before the VCF announcement at VMworld, VMware’s SDDC was more of an architectural philosophy than a suite of comprehensive products to purchase from the company. Talking to VMware’s GM of their cloud business unit, VCF is the fruition of VMware’s SDDC vision. While customers can deploy the bits that make up VCF, the offering with AWS and VMware’s VCAN partners offers a managed SDDC.

SEE: Ebook–Executive’s guide to the software defined data center (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

While consumed as a turnkey solution in the public cloud, VCF is very much about traditional applications. CIOs have struggled with refactoring applications and processes for the public cloud; VCF enables organizations to simply lift-and-shift applications from their existing vSphere environments into an AWS data center.

The hybrid IT offering enables organizations to build cloud-native applications using the massive catalog AWS provides, while keeping traditional applications geographically close. Organizations can move as fast as needed for cloud-native applications while leveraging the existing investment in legacy applications.

VMware on AWS brings the traditional data center to AWS.

The use cases for Microsoft Azure Stack

Microsoft Azure Stack solves the inverse problem to VMware on AWS. Building cloud-native applications in the private data center is a massive challenge. Look no further than Pivotal Labs and OpenStack–both solutions have struggled to gain the critical mass of public cloud. Private cloud is difficult for enterprises to manage alongside traditional infrastructure. Also, developers prefer the vast services and frictionless experience of public cloud over other offerings.

Azure Stack aims to bring the public cloud to the private data center. Azure Stack is a subset of Azure that runs on customer-provided hardware.

The bottom line

VMware Cloud on AWS looks and feels like vSphere, while Azure Stack looks and feels like a public cloud; depending on your use case, you may choose one over the other. Some customers may find that they have both challenges and require a multi-cloud solution that includes both technologies.