We recently published our Quick Take report Breaking Down VMworld 2013, covering the San Francisco show. In that doc we talked about the need for VMware to consolidate and clarify its cloud and virtualization management stack. Since Barcelona has become the venue for VMware management announcements, did VMware deliver this week? The short answer is “yes, stay tuned.” While most press reports focused on the Desktone buy and the expansion of vCloud Hybrid Service to Europe, I was watching for some direction on cloud management and like what I’ve heard so far.

Cloud management tools today tend to offer too much or too little, and that makes cloud either too expensive or too hard. Cloud managers have to either roll their own with evolving open-source management tools, or buy into a Frankenstack of cloudy infrastructure and app management tools with overlapping features, too many interfaces, and (often) several ways to automate the same workflow. Finding that happy middle ground – packaged cloud management stacks, well-integrated, easy to buy and easy to use – must be the goal for those vendors who want to both make money off cloud management and make cloud easier for enterprise I&O buyers.

There’s no one optimal balance between feature breadth and simplicity, but cloud management vendors should favor the latter: managing cloud has to be much faster, easier, and more automated than the way we typically manage IT infrastructure. I dove into this in my latest report Cloud Management In A Hybrid Cloud World. To build a successful hybrid cloud – one managed by IT – the goal has to be acceleration of the cloud application lifecycle, not only the infrastructure lifecycle. Few enterprise hybrid clouds will be IaaS-only; it’s all about the app and apps are indistinguishable from infrastructure in the cloud.

VMware’s made a lot of management acquisitions over the years, built plenty of its own capabilities, and is now on track to bundle and rationalize them for the emerging cloud manager buyer. First off, that means app management (vFabric App Director) gets bundled into vCloud Automation Center (vCAC), along with vCloud Director’s portal, lifecycle management, and multi-tenancy features (all the cloud management versus cloud building features). The new vCAC 6.0, due in November, now has a richer catalog, support for more types of cloud services, app release automation for the DevOps use case, and (finally) some real support for non-vSphere-based clouds. Microsoft threw down the gauntlet with its major bundling for System Center 2012, and VMware definitely needed to respond this year at the latest, especially with Azure’s head start in the public cloud. Some industry watchers don’t like bundling, but I’m a fan when it comes to management tools in a rapidly evolving segment.

VMware also announced the next release of vCenter Operations Management Suite (5.8, due in December), the company’s already-bundled infrastructure and app operations console. Big adds in this release are app-aware performance analytics for a range of business-critical Microsoft apps, more storage insight across different storage platforms, and better visibility into health of Hyper-V and Amazon Web Services apps. The heterogeneous story was hard to miss.

So VMware has responded to customer demand for an easier-to-consume toolset for multi-cloud, multi-hypervisor hybrid clouds. The results is three-legged management approach for what I consider to be the three primary cloud management compentencies I&O leaders need to master: automation (delivering cloud), operations (operating cloud), and governance (managing the business of cloud). I’ll let you know what I think of the result once we see it in the wild.