VMworld 2016: VMware’s Plans for Cloud Domination

M. Fratto

M. Fratto

Summary Bullets:

  • One key strategy VMware employs is attempting to commoditize infrastructure through abstraction and virtualization.
  • Cloud providers need to watch as VMware’s strategy unfolds, ensuring they aren’t commoditized as well.

With Cross-Cloud Services, VMware wants to commoditize cloud services just like it sped up the commoditization of x86 servers. During the keynote demo of the tech preview, VMware replicated much of the functionality found in various cloud dashboards, but more importantly, Cross-Cloud Services consolidates the views into a consistent and cohesive dashboard. I think it’s a pretty impressive effort and I’m curious to see the final product, but as impressed as I may be, I can’t help but consider VMware’s endgame as it tries to manage all the clouds.

Of course, VMware isn’t alone in this goal. Cisco Cloud Center, from its acquisition of CliQr, can do much the same as Cross-Cloud Services and more, such as deploying application bits. Other products offer similar capabilities, and overall, I think the critical benefit is that hybrid cloud managers can aggregate and rationalize capabilities in either on- or off-premises clouds into a consistent set of capabilities for simplifying operations. In fact, some of the customers we talked to are excited about that exact possibility. VMware has the advantage of already being present in most enterprises today, and it seems not even OpenStack or Docker can knock VMware off its pedestal… yet.

First, Cross-Cloud Services allows companies to easily manage VMs regardless of where they reside, making for a consistent experience and handling the fiddly operations unique to each cloud service under the covers, out of the view of the administrator. It offers great operational utility and is a foundation from which VMware can build some very useful services. Imagine if price-based cloud service selection – where the lowest-cost cloud service is used to satisfy specific compute needs – was built in; VMware customers would then be severed from the cloud brand. Price-based selection relegates cloud services down to the cheapest option.

VMware can also replace some, but not all, cloud-provided functionality like load balancing and firewalling, with NSX to start and I imagine more services to be added. As it stands, Cross-Cloud Services simplifies the task of bringing remote cloud networks into the workflow, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to extend the overlay from the VM host to the NSX gateway, allowing any IP network to be used within the NSX environment – regardless of the networking in the cloud. There are some functions VMware currently can’t replace, such as cloud storage, cloud databases and other application services. However, VMware can abstract those capabilities within Cross-Cloud Services, providing a uniform set of capabilities to end users.

The questions for enterprise IT to answer as VMware brings Cross-Cloud Services to market are: To what extent do they want to bring more management into VMware’s environment compared to more manual workflows or using a competitive multi-cloud management product? And is there is any value from brand loyalty with cloud services? The former is a product decision; the latter is an existential threat to cloud services that will still generate revenue from VM instances, but the customer may, for all intents and purposes, be cut off from higher-level services that will be a revenue loss.

About Mike Fratto
Mike is a senior analyst on the Business Technology and Software team covering the Enterprise Networking and Data Center Technology markets. He has extensive experience reviewing and writing about enterprise remote access, security, and network infrastructure products.

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