Sometimes you can only coax a reluctant partner and I&O customer community for so long before you feel you have to take matters into your own hands. That is exactly what VMware has decided to do to become relevant in the cloud platforms space. The hypervisor pioneer unveiled vCloud Hybrid Service to investors today in what is more a statement of intention than a true unveiling.
VMware's public cloud service — yep, a full public IaaS cloud meant to compete with Amazon Web Service, IBM SmartCloud Enterprise, HP Cloud, Rackspace, and others — won't be fully unveiled until Q2 2013, so much of the details about the service remain under wraps. VMware hired the former president for Savvis Cloud, Bill Fathers, to run this new offering and said it was a top three initiative for the company and thus would be getting "the level of investment appropriate to that priority and to capitalize on a $14B market opportunity," according to Matthew Lodge, VP of Cloud Services Product Marketing and Management for VMware, who spoke to us Tuesday about the pending announcement.
VMware is calling the service "hybrid" to set expectations about how enterprises should view the solution and to reinforce its claims about vCloud Director, the software upon which this offering is based. The company has long claimed that vCloud Director, which instantiates an IaaS environment, empowers I&O professionals to manage workloads in exactly the same way, with the same vCenter tools whether deployed on-premise or in the cloud. Prior to this announcement VMware was delivering this hybrid value through Internet service providers (ISPs) who carried the vCloud Powered or vCloud DataCenter monikers which required them to expose the full vCloud API to enable this level of consistent control. However, it found a reluctant partner reception as ISPs feared full vCloud implementation would commoditize their offering and limit differentiation (and even more ISPs balked at the VMware licensing costs compared to open source alternatives).
The second reason for the "hybrid" name is to prove to its army of VMware Certified Professionals that the public cloud isn't the enemy but is instead an extension of the data center but one that is different from the static virtualization environments they operate today. This means showing them how vCloud Director should really be deployed — with a self-service portal exposed to the developer (not to the administrator), with cost transparency and full deployment automation. As discussed in this blog previously, this is a major challenge for the company, as it has trained an entire generation of administrators to run the virtual infrastructure one way and now needs to teach them to run it entirely differently.
VMware said its public cloud will be aimed at its existing customer base and sold through its existing VAR and SI channel. This explains CEO Gelsinger's strong comments from last month's Partner Exchange — it wasn't public clouds he was worried about but non-VMware public clouds. But for this channel fulfillment strategy to come true, its partners will have to get with the cloud program too and, like the I&O clients they serve, many don't see more revenue at the end of the public cloud rainbow. And most channel partners don't have the skills or the trust level to help their I&O clients transition from static virtualization to cloud — that's a culture and career path change more than a product they can sell them. This requires consulting skills and real cloud experience, and most VMware partners don't have either.
But even if turning the channel will be a challenge, VMware is hedging that bet too — its public IaaS cloud will be directly consumable by developers — with a credit card. So it could disrupt the channel, the I&O professionals, and the corporate data center. More enlightened I&O professionals will probably say, "Well if I have to let my developers use the cloud, maybe I can push them to a cloud that I can manage." Not a bad strategy.
So what does this mean for Forrester I&O clients? At this point, wait and see. Until full details of the offering are made available and understand its pricing model and learn about how effectively this can be leveraged in a hybrid fashion, all we can do is speculate. VMware said a new version of its vCloud Connector tool (that links data center environments) will coincide with the launch of this service and will be delivered at no additional charge to existing vCloud Director clients. Will this really be easier to integrate and more seamless? Will VMware get the developer experience right? A lot remains to be seen.