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VMware Takes Stab at Public Cloud

According to VMware there are 3,700 applications certified to run on vSphere and the vCloud Hybrid Service

VMware covered its flank Tuesday when it went into the public cloud business hoping to prevent its installed base of 500,000 strong from skipping off to the likes of Amazon or Azure – which are reaching out to the enterprise – simply because it didn’t have an Infrastructure-as-a-Service alternative that rents out virtual servers and storage over the Internet.

Now it does.

VMware calls its new widgetry the vCloud Hybrid Service, which is confusing until you realize that VMware is laying a single “seamless” interoperable track from the vSphere virtualization software so prevalent in the enterprise to its new public cloud.

Since the widgetry, built on same VMware software stack and software-defined data center infrastructure, is all supposed to work so well together it should be pretty painless to set up and operate from the same interface. Users are supposed to be able to take apps and data from their on-premise data centers and simply lift them into the cloud – complements of a free plug-in – without rewriting them, testing them much or changing management software.

It should save them the so-called “hidden cost” of having to test applications before running them on Amazon and in fact other clouds.

According to VMware there are 3,700 applications certified to run on vSphere and the vCloud Hybrid Service, which can also run any of the 90-odd operating systems already certified to run on vSphere. But what VMware’s really saying is “any application, any place, any cloud without any changes” (well, so long as it’s ESXi-compatible).

VMware also promises that users can simply stretch their Layer 2 and Layer 3 networks seamlessly from their data centers to the vCloud Hybrid Service without making manual configuration changes.

“Network virtualization,” it says, “enables you to configure your firewalls and network as if they were in your own data center so that you can replicate the network your applications need to operate. The service provides common identity and access management across your onsite and offsite cloud locations.”

And one of the jobs of a feature called the Hybrid Cloud Connector is to ensure that the governance controls used internally are also used for externally deployed VMs.

All of this is supposed to overwhelm customers with enough familiarity to reassure those who still figure going to the cloud is a dicey proposition. Key data can still be kept at home.

vCloud Hybrid Service is supposed to go into early adopter mode next month to maybe about 100 companies. Folks like Fox Broadcasting and the state of Michigan are already using production-ready code. The widgetry should go live in the US in Q3 and sometime next year in Europe and Asia.

Unlike Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Rackspace, et cetera, et cetera VMware isn’t going to use its own data centers for the scheme. Instead it’s going to use the data centers of four of its partners, but hasn’t identified who. It did, however, say the facilities will be in Santa Clara, California; Dallas; Las Vegas; and Sterling, Virginia.

There will be two versions of the stuff.

The “Dedicated Cloud” version will buy users their own dedicated hardware in exchange for at least a one-year contract. For 13 cents an hour you get a “fully protected, fully redundant virtual machine with one virtual processor core and 1GB of virtual memory.” But that’s not counting the storage or bandwidth.

The rest of the pricing is in the VMware chart below:

The other version, called a “Virtual Private Cloud,” for variable workloads buys the user space on a multi-tenant machine in exchange for a three to 12 month contract. Here a virtual machine with one virtual processor core and 1GB of virtual memory is supposed to run 4.5 cents an hour but of course there are extras:

VMware might adjust the pricing during the private beta since it wants to be competitive but it still expects it to be more expensive than Amazon because moving apps around is so much slicker. It will also be reselling operating systems and application licenses for virtual machines including hosted versions of SAP applications and SAP’s HANA in-memory database.

Amazon’s virtual machines, on the other hand, come pre-loaded with operating systems and it bundles those licensing costs in its pricing so it’s kinda hard to compare VMware prices with Amazon’s.

For sure the scheme will pad out the premium charges users are already paying to VMware, safeguarding the vendor’s ongoing revenue stream.

Gartner estimates that IaaS sales will mushroom 38% a year to $30.6 billion by 2017, up from $6.17 billion last year.

Ars Technica pointed out that the vCloud Hybrid Service isn’t VMware’s first plunge into IaaS. It’s been selling virtualization to service providers to build clouds on for a few years and those customers like AT&T and Verizon’s Terremark could easily see VMware as treading on their turf, especially if it’s not using their data centers for the gambit.

By way of a consolation prize, VMware said it would work with these partners to offer add-on services such as consulting and management or sell them the vCloud Hybrid technology for specific industries or regions. VMware said it wasn’t expecting much in the way of defections from the SPs.

When VMware sketched out the vCloud Hybrid Service for the big cloud service providers, the idea reportedly fell flat. Most of them liked neither the concept nor the implementation.

VMware worked on vCloud Hybrid under the codename Project Zephyr for two years, but according to Simon Aspinall, chief vertical markets, strategy and marketing officer at Virtustream, the enterprise-grade cloud provider, what VMware’s offering as a result of two year’s labor is pretty thin: a rehash of its highly successful vSphere virtualization and a replay of its highly unsuccessful and pricey vCloud Director management kit.

vCloud Hybrid isn’t dynamic or elastic like a good little cloud’s supposed to be, Simon said, pointing to the fixed size of the Hybrid instances on offer.

And since VMware is demanding contracts, there’s little to suggest users will be turning the instances on and off like a water tap, or be able to add capacity since there was no discussion of bigger instances.

As for being enterprise-grade, well, there was little to no talk of application-level SLAs, performance guarantees, security or compliance, the kind of stuff Virtustream makes its living on.

Simon found it very odd that VMware had no CSPs in tow at Hybrid’s announcement since it remains unclear where Hybrid’s going to get those features, provoking him to wonder if VMware, demonstrably late to the cloud party, hasn’t decided it’s losing the cloud battle and is using Hybrid as a kind of insurance policy for its virtualization interests.

VMware did turn up at the affair with a few partners: Tibco, Microsoft, Puppet Labs and Pivotal.

Pivotal, of course, is family. It’s the still mysterious joint venture between VMware and its parent company EMC that’s being run by VMware former CEO Paul Maritz. VMware pushed stuff like its open source Platform-as-a-Service Cloud Foundry into Pivotal, and GE took a 10% stake for $105 million. Puppet Labs, the cloud automation house, might as well be family since VMware has $30 million in the joint. Software purchased from these companies, such as Microsoft’s e-mail and database, will run in VMware’s cloud.

VMware and SAP have also expanded their relationship in the name of vCloud Hybrid.

Besides unidentified “core” SAP solutions, VMware is going to offer HANA on a subscription basis along with infrastructure services on-premise, in the cloud or in hybrid deployments. Folks with HANA license will only have to pay for the infrastructure.

The HANA widgetry is HANA One Premium, a cut-down 64GB instance that Amazon already offers. Business Insider observes that the “typical on-premises version of HANA begins with 64GB of RAM and goes up from there – to terabytes. The amount of memory is important since this is an in-memory database, meaning it does all of its work on data stored in memory rather than on disk. The bigger the RAM, the more data it can process.”

Sounds like HANA in the cloud will only be nibbling on on-premise ERP data – at least for the time being.

By the way, I thought I would share this line with you. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger (pictured above), the Intel veteran, reportedly said of vSphere, the ESXi vCenter stack, “We have become mission-critical. We have become the new hardware.” Guess we can expect branding like “VMware Inside.”

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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