VMware, known for its software stack for virtualized environments, showed its expanded ecosystem at VMworld 2016 in Las Vegas. It has made a decided effort to reach into mixed-vendor deployments in virtualized x86 infrastructure – and to connect with other vendor’s public clouds, starting with IBM’s SoftLayer.
The company with the largest installed base of virtualized x86 infrastructure is moving, in multiple ways, to grow its total available market (TAM), even as its corporate parent, EMC, merges into Dell Technologies.
Significantly, it highlighted its connections with open-source technologies that drive many of the cloud computing deployments, both in enterprise data centers and cloud service provider data centers. Yet it must navigate multiple marketing messages that maintain its longtime VMware stack, while adding new open source links, cloud APIs, and more extensive interoperability with software stacks from other large providers, including Microsoft.
The drivers for these changes are clear: The Internet and the cloud have changed the rules of the road, compared with VMware’s first VMworld in 2004 – 12 years ago – and VMware’s push into multi-cloud interoperability should be viewed in that light. Further, former VMware CEO Paul Maritz spoke about the need for multi-cloud interoperability as early as 2009, so it has been on the roadmap for many years.
Tapping More Cloud Service Providers
- VMware Cloud Foundation combines VMware vSphere and VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) with VMware NSX for network virtualization and SDDC Manager for management of deployments and lifecycle management automation.
- IBM announced its support for a new Cloud Foundation “as a service” offering, running Cloud Foundation on the IBM SoftLayer public cloud. This creates a federated hybrid cloud that links customers’ private clouds with SoftLayer – and supports workloads that migrate to IBM SoftLayer, based on compatible software stacks. IBM’s SoftLayer support for Cloud Foundation will be available in Q316, making it first public cloud to support the new offering.
- VMware Cross-Cloud Services was announced as a tech preview, not yet in general availability; more announcements are expected in 2017. These are new Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings that enable multi-cloud deployments, supporting consistent security and network services for cloud workloads spanning multi-clouds.
Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services
With Cloud Foundation, VMware is bundling multiple virtualization products, as in a single integrated software stack. This may have the effect of easing and speeding cloud deployments based on VMware infrastructure. This would mean that VMware recognizes customer feedback regarding moves to the cloud, where increased complexity would have slowed hybrid cloud deployments linking VMware’s installed base customers with public clouds.
Rather than replacing VMware deployments, Cloud Foundation is leveraging current deployments and linking them with public clouds. IBM is first to offer the “as a service” approach with Cloud Foundation running on IBM’s SoftLayer public cloud. Others may follow, as indicated during VMware keynotes, with possible future “as a service” offerings from other public clouds, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
Cross-Cloud Services leverages a new layer of software that was developed by VMware, as a special project, we have learned. This introduces a new layer of abstraction to span two clouds, and support both clouds’ APIs. Extensions to the NSX network virtualization software completed the solution.
It’s interesting to note that VMware has been describing its support for hybrid clouds for many years, having taken earlier steps to enable hybrid clouds linking enterprise and cloud data centers. Years ago, it identified the need to support APIs for multiple clouds, recognizing customers’ adoption patterns – which often include links to more than one public cloud. This was predicted by VMware executives years earlier, in the mid-2000s.
The Growing Ecosystem
VMworld 2016 took place 12 years after the very first VMworld was held in fall, 2004, in San Diego. The Las Vegas conference attracted a high-water mark of 23,000 attendees – far larger than the 2004 VMworld event, which began with just 1,500 attendees. This reflects the company’s growth to a $6.5 billion publically traded company in 2015, which is 80% owned by EMC Corp. EMC is now being merged with Dell into a privately held Dell Technologies company, effective Sept. 7, 2016.
The VMworld trade-show floor echoed a key point: the VMware ecosystem has grown into one that includes thousands of partners in 120 countries worldwide. Importantly, many of the largest ecosystem partners compete in the marketplace – creating a friendly, if pragmatic, co-opetition dynamic. Examples include: Microsoft, and the OpenStack open-source community.
Today, VMware supports open-source Docker containers and Kubernetes orchestration software, and multiple Microsoft products. And, VMware supports VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) in its current offerings. As shown on slides in the conference keynotes, VMware also plans to extend Cloud Foundation to other public clouds, such as the Microsoft Azure Cloud and Amazon Web services. However, at VMworld 2016, IBM was the only public cloud provider that has already formally agreed to support Cloud Foundation..
Importantly, this evidence of competition among many of VMware’s partners underscored important aspects of the VMware presence in the marketplace:
- VMware’s large installed base has led it to become customer-centric. VMware’s vSphere is a widely installed virtualization platform, which had first-mover advantage. It is widely used in large, medium and small organizations, which have widely divergent IT requirements. VSAN (or Virtual SAN, which is native to vSphere) allows customers to leverage their existing IT skills and VM environments to host a virtual storage area network on multiple x86 servers, as an alternative to more costly scale-up SAN hardware systems.
- There is not a single management interface for VMware deployments; rather, there are many. That is why VMware is supporting many APIs, to achieve compatibility with a range of customer deployment scenarios.
- Software-defined storage (SDS) is becoming widespread. SDS use is growing among VMware customers – and many of the SDS providers compete with one another. This will become more important as cloud storage for VMs grows for high availability and data protection.
- Converged and hyper-converged solutions have multiplied. Many customers work to consolidate workloads and simplify management of a rapidly growing number of VMs in their data centers. VMware is expanding its support for hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solutions, which are proliferating through hardware- and software-based products.
- Multiple cloud service providers (CSPs) are now included in the VMware ecosystem of partners. VMware fully expects its customers to tap multiple clouds as they migrate more workloads from on-prem infrastructure to off-prem cloud infrastructure. This is a pragmatic view, which factors in software diversity, which acknowledges strong support for OpenStack, Docker, and Java.
Context for the Event
At VMworld 2016, Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell appeared onstage with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, but the two did not announce technical details for the unfolding Dell Technologies roadmap at that time. The launch of Dell Technologies was formally announced one week later, on Sept. 7, 2016.
However, VMware’s strategy is already clear: By expanding its ecosystem of partners, it will work to increase its points of entry into SMB and large organizations. And, as digital transformation proceeds, and and as data centers add next-generation technologies for cloud-enablement, it will catch the next wave: It will link VMware-based enterprise infrastructure with multiple public clouds, in sync with customers’ moves to hybrid cloud.