VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and AWS senior vice president Andy Jassy announced a significant partnership between the two companies on Thursday when the pair appeared on stage together to introduce VMware Cloud on AWS. According to VMware’s press release, the VMware Cloud on AWS is an expansion of VMware’s Cloud Foundation Program. VMware also announced a similar partnership with IBM’s Softlayer. The VMware Cloud on AWS solution is now in preview with full availability expected mid 2017. VMware will manage, sell, and support the service directly.

The technology

It’s helpful to understand the technology architecture associated with VMware Cloud on AWS and how it differs from existing solutions. Oracle’s Ravello Systems offers a solution that runs VMware-based virtualization images on top. Oracle is essentially reselling AWS instances with a proprietary hypervisor that translates the VMware instructions. Ravello Systems’ solution comes with a significant performance cost and is positioned for non-production workloads. Ravello Systems also doesn’t support full integration with VMware’s management interface or software-defined data center (SDDC) concept.

SEE: VMware’s next play: Managing all clouds for enterprises (ZDNet)

AWS has an existing vCenter plugin that allows for simple migration of VMware workloads to AWS. The AWS solution is production-class use cases. Similar to Ravello Systems, the AWS vCenter plugin is limited in the integration with extensions of the VMware SDDC platform.

Coming from the other side, VMware had an ill-fated attempt to build a large-scale public cloud. VMware’s vCloud Air public cloud service leverages the vCloud Director (vCD) orchestration platform. VMware Cloud on AWS is a completely re-engineered cloud offering. VMware and AWS have teamed to run the entire SDDC portfolio on bare metal servers within AWS data centers. VMware Cloud on AWS supports vSphere, NSX, VSAN, and vRealize. Unlike vCloud Air, which required a vCD plugin, a VMware Cloud on AWS data center is managed directly from a customer’s existing vCenter Plugin.

No mention of hybrid cloud

I found it curious neither VMware nor AWS called the solution hybrid cloud. Integration of operations between public cloud and traditional on-premises data centers has proven an elusive goal. The partnership highlights the business challenges of each vendor. VMware experienced many stops and starts with gaining traction as a public cloud provider. Likewise, AWS found it difficult to entice enterprises to move VMware-based workloads to EC2.

The theory of this partnership is that customers wanting to use their existing VMware software and operations strategy can leverage VMware Cloud on AWS. Customers seamlessly move workloads from their on-premises data center to vSphere servers running on AWS infrastructure. The use case is a similar value proposition as VMware’s vCloud Air public cloud, but with the important distinction that the infrastructure is AWS.

More questions than answers

I walked away from this announcement with more questions than answers. VMware and AWS essentially presented hosted VMware in AWS. Today, the primary advantage over other hosted vSphere implementations is the proximity to AWS solutions. It’s as close to co-location as VMware customers get into an AWS data center.

However, it doesn’t solve the problem of building a hybrid infrastructure. Missing in the announcement were advanced tools for integration of the VMware Cloud on AWS with other AWS products. While possible for a customer to run NSX in the VMware Cloud on AWS, there isn’t integration between AWS VPC and NSX. There’s also the inverse challenge. VMware Cloud on AWS doesn’t bring a private version of AWS to VMware infrastructure. Customers wanting a serverless computing option that leverages private data center resources still have to look toward solutions such as AzureStack.

I’m expecting more meat on the bone from both VMware and AWS. While an attractive technical solution, both companies have to fill in some blanks on what business challenges the solution solves. I’m looking forward to seeing further integration from products such as VMware Cross-Cloud and AWS Lambda.

What are your thoughts?

Is VMware Cloud on AWS a game-changing announcement? What use cases come to mind? Share your thoughts in the comments below.