In-Depth

VMware's Cloud Pivot at VMworld 2016

The company changed focus more to collaboration than one-stop-shopping.

VMworld 2016 U.S. is barely behind us, and we're still awaiting the announcements that will take place at VMworld 2016 EU later this year. The announcements made at the U.S. edition of the conference tell an interesting story about the current state -- and the future state -- of VMware, and enterprise IT in general.

Last year, the VMworld conference theme was "Ready for Any," and the messaging at the conference supported the idea that BYOD, IoT and hybrid cloud architectures were going to be demanding quite a bit of IT organizations in the near future. VMware claimed that it alone had the tools to make it possible.

Out of One, Many
Announcements included improvements to the vCloud Air platform, enhanced GPU support for EUC applications, VMware Integrated Openstack 2.0, vSphere Integrated Containers and Photon, and the EVO SDDC management suite. The key message that I heard personally was "VMware is sufficient for all of your cloud needs." This message was reinforced by the conference tagline, "One Cloud, Any Application, Any Device."

The announcements at VMworld 2016 seem to tell the opposite story. There were still plenty of announcements around offerings similar to last year (like a new iteration of vSphere Integrated Containers and the impressive growth of the VSAN customer base). But what was more notable to me is that the Day 1 General Session announcements were much more focused on how VMware products could play nicely with other cloud services.

You can read about the Day 1 announcements in more detail here, but the general idea is that VMware is making it easier to deploy their tools into other clouds. They're also creating tools to help customers manage multiple clouds. For example: VMware-based infrastructure as well as perhaps AWS, Azure or Google Cloud Platform. They gave a really neat demo of this new offering (which is in Tech Preview) called Cross-Cloud Services, which can be viewed in the recording of the General Session from Day 1.

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 1. The Cross-Cloud Services "Resources" pane demo in the General Session on Day 1
The Dulling of the Shine
The truth is that with each passing year, IT folks that I talk to seem to become slightly less enchanted with VMware's technologies. Those technologies have been literally world-changing, and caused a major evolution of the data center; but the way things are moving today causes one to wonder: is VMware's time in the spotlight up? By no means is VMware on its way out: it's still got massive footprint in datacenters around the world, and that won't be changing any time soon. But it does seem like the excitement that once followed VMware everywhere is dwindling.

I see more and more customers interested in leveraging AWS or Azure or building their own OpenStack-based private cloud. At the end of the day, the hypervisor is becoming a commodity. VMware saw this coming and has been pushing hard into other areas of the datacenter, but it could be too little, too late. Regardless, this shift says that VMware's leadership is humble enough to know that they can't be all things to all people, and wise enough to focus on playing well with others.

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said in his Day 1 address that it will be approximately 14 years before public cloud overtakes on-premises deployments by percentage. If this is anywhere close to accurate (which I believe it is), then there's still plenty of time for VMware to continue providing value in the datacenter and pivoting to enable a more cloud-native world.

It's very tempting to the leaders of organizations the size of VMware to try to be all things to all people. However, in an era where technology evolves at an exponential rate and scrappy startups can easily disrupt an industry, I believe that focus is important. The shift in stance to offering VMware products and integrations across multiple clouds, as opposed to trying to be the only cloud, is a good move in my eyes.

The Multi-Cloud Era Has Arrived
For the IT landscape in general, this shift acknowledges the reality that it's a multi-cloud world out there. Gelsinger said in his Day 1 address that in a survey VMware conducted, the average enterprise is leveraging no fewer than eight cloud services. Most industry analysts believe this figure will only continue to increase. As the hybrid cloud world we live it becomes increasingly complex, I believe solutions like Cross-Cloud Services are desperately needed.

VMware isn't the only company to acknowledge this, either. My partners and I interviewed more than 20 vendors in the Solutions Exchange at the event and found plenty of others talking about multiple clouds as well, like Zerto, Velostrata, CloudPhysics, and NooBaa, I can say with certainty that over the next couple of years, there will be many, many customers looking for hybrid cloud solutions like those offered by VMware and their ecosystem partners.

About the Author

vExpert James Green has roughly a decade of experience as an IT administrator, architect and consultant in a variety of organizations. He's highly certified, and continues to purse professional certifications to increase his breadth and depth of knowledge. He has always been passionate about writing and speaking, and discussing the marriage of cutting-edge technology and business is one of his favorite activities. He works for ActualTech Media, www.actualtech.io.

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