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VMware multi-cloud approach becomes next phase of SDDC evolution

VMware's vision has evolved. The vendor that once focused solely on virtualization now pivots toward the multi-cloud market and hopes to make its cloud products the next evolution of SDDC.

SAN FRANCISCO -- As cloud offerings increase in number and popularity, VMware's target market has pivoted to include multi-cloud management. With services such as VMware Cloud on AWS, the virtualization vendor hopes to provide consistent infrastructure for VMs and containers, as well as reliable operations across clouds.

"[VMware]'s vision ... evolved over time. From a VMware virtualization perspective, we moved into cloud, we moved into software-defined data center, but it's all about any device, any application, any cloud," said Martijn Baecke in a VMworld 2019 session he presented here with Matthew Steiner. The VMware cloud technologists discussed how the company intends to help users move toward multi-cloud environments.

Cloud management platforms should provide several things to customers: automation to create services, operations to get visibility and cost management. They should also provide self-driving operations that focus on continuous performance optimization, efficient capacity management, intelligent remediation and integrated compliance.

Building blocks of the SDDC

The data center begins with the basic building blocks of any on-premises infrastructure: compute, storage and networking. VMware created a software-defined product to virtualize each: vSphere for compute, vSAN for storage and NSX for networking.

VMware had hoped to make the software-defined data center (SDDC) the de facto standard for many businesses. But with the shift toward cloud technologies, VMware now hopes to "cloudify" its core technology. The company wants to provide a consistent infrastructure -- one vSphere-based platform -- for workloads regardless of whether they run on premises or in the cloud.

"Primarily, we've used the vSphere suite -- vSAN, we have NSX and Fusion, Workstation ... [When we switch to cloud,] hopefully we won't see an increase in our operational costs [or] our admins' time ... We're trying to pursue more Kubernetes infrastructure and getting away from the on-prem data-center-centric model," said Josh McCarl, a system administrator at Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa., about his department's decision to switch from a VMware SDDC to a VMware cloud service.

SDDC as a service

VMware hopes to make VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) the next evolution of the SDDC. Ideally, VCF provides a platform that easily hosts both VMs and applications. VCF provides resources for a cloud to consume, and VMware's SDDC Manager keeps VCF up to date. VMware offers VCF for multiple cloud platforms, including IBM Cloud, Azure and over 4,500 other VMware service providers that have built clouds using VMware software.

VMware also partnered with AWS to create VMware Cloud on AWS, its primary SDDC-as-a-service offering.  VMware and AWS hope to provide customers with a single point of contact for their whole infrastructures. VMware takes responsibility for management, maintenance and upgrades, and the service works with all other VMware services because of its vSphere base, which means customers aren't required to refactor it. They hope to attract global customers to this service.

"They're making it easy for the beginning IT professional," said Anthony Quepons, an infrastructure-data center technician at University of California, Santa Barbara. "The established IT professionals are enjoying their cloud services because we're used to running VMware for so many years. But most organizations have a struggle now: Do we use VMware Cloud, or do we go straight into AWS and maybe save dollars?"

VMware also intends to move Project Pacific to SDDC as a service, making it the next step from its vSphere Integrated Container. In doing so, it hopes to further evolve its hypervisor to host new types of container-based workloads.

The future of VMware, multi-cloud

Some applications might be ripe to migrate to cloud platforms, but VMware recognizes the necessity for a dual strategy. Certain legacy apps must remain internal and on premises, and future apps might be developed natively in the cloud.

With NSX Cloud, VMware hopes to stretch networks and resources across on premises, various cloud services and native public clouds.

VMware renamed Cloud Automation Services as vRealize Automation Cloud. It contains features such as VMware Cloud Assembly, which assembles assets and assigns them as blueprints to different services, and VMware Service Broker, which wraps governance policies around applications.

VMware also made several acquisitions within the past year that it hopes will improve its cloud portfolio. CloudHealth manages the business of the cloud and gives a real-time display of configuration, compliance and security. Bitnami provides application packaging services, enabling customers to create services and make them immediately available in their private clouds. Wavefront provides observability over a cloud ecosystem.

"[Some customers] need guarantees that their stuff is going to stay stateside, and Amazon, Azure and stuff ... It's really the back-end providers that are the issue; it's not really the technology -- it's the locality of where your data is. But I think VMware has their bases covered," said Nicholas Gamewell, a consultant at Sollertia Technology Consulting, based in Swansea, Ill.

VMware also intends to work more closely with -- and contribute to -- open source projects. VMware has no intention of making ESXi open source anytime soon, but the vendor does hope to gain the trust and the partnership of the open source community. It hopes to enable customers to move from on-premises or virtualized environments to private, public or multi-cloud environments without restrictions on what those customers can consume.

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