VMware and Huawei: Two Mega-Events, Two Mega-Visions of Tomorrow’s Cloud Ecosystem

C. Drake
C. Drake

Summary Bullets:

  • At their respective annual events, VMware and Huawei delivered their own visions of the emerging cloud ecosystem and their plans for shaping that ecosystem.
  • Key distinctions between these two companies’ approach to cloud building include the way they work with partners and the way they negotiate new technology innovations.

Last week saw two IT giants, on different sides of the globe, articulate their own particular visions of the emerging cloud technology ecosystem and their respective plans for shaping that ecosystem. For virtualization king VMware, the eighth annual VMworld event in Las Vegas was, among other things, an opportunity to demonstrate its efforts to extend the VMware platform to the public cloud while continuing to position its various platform components as the underlying foundation of the modern cloud data center. From the three days at Vegas’ glittering Mandalay Bay hotel, it was clear that VMware sees itself as driving and shaping the evolving cloud ecosystem with its own products and solutions, while building partnerships that complement and supplement its broader business model. Examples of VMware’s approach to cloud building include its strategy towards containers and its new Cross-Cloud Services initiative, which is so new that it has yet to be given a commercial name.

In 2015, responding to earlier concerns that Docker containers represented a threat to its virtualization empire, VMware launched vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC), which encapsulate Docker containers within its own ESXi bare metal hypervisor. Key to VMware’s container strategy is the argument that containers are more secure when running inside a hypervisor than running outside one. The promotion and ongoing development of VIC – with additional enhancements to the product being announced at this year’s VMworld – is important to VMware because it allows the vendor to preserve its installed ESXi customer base. Separately, VMware’s new Cross-Cloud Services offering, which gives customers the ability to manage and secure applications running in private and public clouds, is based on the vendor’s network virtualization platform, NSX. Using NSX as the basis for its multi-cloud management tool allows VMware to retain control over its customers’ workloads. It is also possible to see ‘Cross-Cloud Services’ as an attempt by VMware to commoditize cloud services just like it sped up the commoditization of x86 servers.

At the same time as VMworld, on the other side of the world, Huawei was playing host to over 20,000 attendees in Shanghai at its first-ever Huawei Connect event. At Huawei Connect, China’s largest IT equipment vendor, and now the world’s third-largest mobile handset provider, delivered to the industry one of its most comprehensive overviews of its plan to “shape the cloud” of tomorrow. Huawei envisages the cloud as an ecosystem based on “openness, collaboration and shared success.” This is in line with the company’s commitment to a cloud environment based on open source principles, OpenStack architecture and an open ecosystem of carrier, enterprise and technology partnerships. In constructing this ecosystem, Huawei sees its role as an “enabler,” with rotating CEO Ken Hu stressing in Shanghai that Huawei is not going to deploy its own clouds, but will instead work with its partners to support enterprise efforts to build “all manner of clouds,” while delivering to enterprises tailored hybrid cloud solutions based on a unified, open architecture.

Both Huawei and VMware emphasize the importance of partners in building tomorrow’s cloud ecosystem. However, Huawei’s approach involves working with a multitude of partners to collectively build a cloud environment based on open source principles and OpenStack infrastructure, whose openness creates a pot of opportunity big enough for all contributors to benefit. By contrast, VMware’s approach to partnerships is more selective and strategic, and involves working with partners whose cooperation helps to consolidate and promote the centrality of VMware products such as ESXi, vSphere and NSX.

In addition to their differing visions of, and approach towards, building the cloud ecosystems of tomorrow, VMware and Huawei differ in their perspectives on the speed of cloud technology adoption among enterprises. Therefore, according to figures presented by VMware at VMworld, 50% of enterprise IT workloads will be in either a private or public cloud by 2021, as opposed to running on traditional IT; by 2030, this figure is expected to rise to over 80%. Meanwhile, Huawei predicts that, by 2025, all enterprise IT solutions will be ‘cloudified’ and more than 85% of enterprise applications will be cloud-based. According to these predictions, Huawei has a more optimistic view of the rate of cloud adoption among enterprises. This may reflect the vendor’s confidence in the growing support for open source technologies and the impact this will have on cloud adoption.

Also clear from VMworld and Huawei Connect was the extent to which the industry is still battling to comprehend and conceptualize the emerging cloud ecosystem. The VMworld keynotes saw repeated references to the “hybrid,” “mega” and “meta” clouds of the future, which its new Cross-Cloud Services would allow customers to manage, while Huawei Connect referred to the goal of enabling the creation of “all manner of clouds” by enterprises. The struggle to define the cloud is just as important as the fight to establish which technologies will shape the way it works. This is because definitions help to frame our understanding and appreciation of what can be achieved.

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