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VMware embraces strategic cloud partnerships

In an effort to establish itself as the connective tissue between the cloud and on-premises data centers, VMware has embraced cloud partnerships with AWS, IBM, HPE and more.

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: Modern Infrastructure: The future of cloud computing looks foggy:

If this year's 20,000 VMworld attendees left Las Vegas with any specific message, it was that VMware has no intention of competing head-to-head with cloud vendors. Instead, the company is forming cloud partnerships with those providers that showcase how VMware technologies can work in conjunction with cloud services.

It would seem that VMware's turned over a new leaf, which began with the sale of its vCloud Air business to cloud provider OVH earlier this year. While VMware software can help power, interface with or drive a cloud, the actual business of providing and running a cloud is best left to someone else.

The cloud partnerships VMware has formed with Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Google are similar but distinct. Each deal highlights the strength of the cloud vendor and how specific VMware software contributes to those strengths. VMware's relationship with Google will focus on containers, while the company's partnership with IBM will emphasize NSX. The VMware Cloud on AWS deal acknowledges Amazon's infrastructure expertise, and HPE has a strong end-user device focus. While none of these features are exclusive to these specific cloud vendors, VMware is playing to the strength of each provider.

VMware hopes it can provide the connective pieces to tie cloud services back to on-premises data centers. VMware even intends to bring Microsoft into its fold of cloud partnerships with a deal to bring Horizon Cloud to Azure.

High hopes and high costs

While each cloud vendor got a chance to showcase new and exciting products and features, it was VMware on AWS that stole the show. Early-access customers generally gave the service positive reviews, but cost remains a concern. With a base price of around $52,000 per host -- with a four-host minimum -- per year, it's a good bet most of us won't simply swipe our credit cards. The initial host specs are clearly targeted at the enterprise with enormous core counts and memory, which partially explains the high cost.

While none of these features are exclusive to these specific cloud vendors, VMware is playing to the strength of each provider.

While the burst costs were more reasonable, it's safe to say this will remain a niche product until the service offers additional tiers targeted at a larger subset of potential customers, including those with budget restrictions.

It's important to keep in mind that initial costs cover only VMware services and do not include any additional charges you might encounter with AWS, such as storage, load-balancing or backup features. The other wildcard with this service is what it could mean for guest OS licensing.

The available hosts include dual CPUs with 18 cores each. So, if you intend to use Windows Server 2016, you could be looking at 10 two-core packs per host -- or 40 total for a minimum deployment. Microsoft offers discounts, but licensing these hosts could still cost you more than $30,000. Yes, that cost would be similar for on-premises resources, but a different server configuration with fewer cores might be cheaper. This cost only applies to the base OS layer; application-specific licensing could open up an additional can of worms.

VMware makes a bid for security

Much to the dismay of several security vendors, VMware made another big splash in the security arena. AppDefense uses VMware's provisioning of virtualized networks to create isolated regions and a protected zone for VMs where an administrator can monitor them for inappropriate behavior and make corrections as needed.

AppDefense doesn't replace traditional malware or virus-based signature defense; instead, it's designed to identify anomalous behavior and isolate the breach with what VMware calls an intent-based security model. A key piece to this approach is VMware's ability to simply remove what could be a compromised VM and replace it with a clean clone.

This dive into a crowded security market won't sit well with some VMware partners, but hopefully the security side of VMware can learn from the company's cloud efforts to position itself to work with -- rather than compete against -- existing security vendors.

VMworld 2017 showed a mature IT company repositioning itself. The hypervisor wars are pretty much over, and even many of the cloud battles have been settled. Rather than continue to put up a fight, VMware has opted to take a pragmatic approach by committing to cloud partnerships and capitalizing on the strengths of other cloud providers. 

Next Steps

Amazon clears path to hybrid cloud with VMware partnership

VMware keeps one eye on artificial intelligence

NSX is the key to VMware's long-term business strategy

This was last published in October 2017

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