VMware’s Head – And Future – Is In The Clouds

More than a decade ago, VMware and its new server virtualization technology represented  significant threat to traditional OEMs like Dell, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard (now Hewlett Packard Enterprise) who were selling their boxes to enterprises that had to over-provision the systems they were bringing into make sure there was enough compute capacity to handle the biggest spikes in demand over the course of the year. That meant they were paying for the most compute power they could to handle occurrences that may only occurs a handful of times during the server’s lifetime. For the rest of the time the bulk of that compute power was sitting idly while running much less demanding applications.

Server virtualization changed that by enabling enterprises to slice up servers and running many more workloads simultaneously; essentially, more applications could run on a single server via virtual machines (VMs), threatening the server businesses of all these hardware makers. If all these applications could run on a single server, why buy as many servers? There were challenges in terms of complexity, sprawl and management, but there was no turning around the virtualization train, particularly as it jumped from servers to storage and networking.

It was a boon for VMware, which grew quickly, was bought by storage giant EMC and then became a part of Dell when that company about EMC in 2016 in a massive deal worth more than $60 billion. As we at The Next Platform have talked about, in recent years the company that caused so much tension and anxiety for system makers all of a sudden found itself facing its own challenges, including from the cloud and, more recently, containers. VMware had made its mark in on-premises datacenters, so it wouldn’t do for the company if organizations decided to move their workloads out of the datacenter and into the cloud. And if the easiest way to move and manage applications as they moved in that direction – or between the multiple clouds enterprises were adopting – was containers and Kubernetes, then what was the future of VMs?

Given all that, VMware began to shift more of its own attention to the cloud, spending billions of dollars in recent years on innovation and acquisition to become an active player in the hybrid cloud. In particular, VMware has focused on the hybrid cloud, taking advantage of its large presence in the datacenter while growing its own cloud portfolio and working with major players like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. It’s paid off. The company is rapidly building out its cloud capabilities and is seeing its cloud business grow, as evidenced by its latest quarterly earnings announcement this month, where VMware, with hybrid cloud subscriptions and software-as-a-service (SaaS) revenue increasing 40 percent year-to-year.

The attention to the cloud will be on full display at this week’s VMworld 2019 show in San Francisco, where its cloud technologies and partnerships took center stage during the first day Aug. 26. With the hybrid cloud being the focus, many of the numerous announcements this week take in both VMware’s past and its present, according to Kit Colbert, vice president and cloud CTO of VMware’s Cloud Platforms business unit.

“If you look back at our history, we started more focused with the introduction of vSphere and this concept of virtual infrastructure, this concept that we can virtualize [hardware] and then begin to manage that at that scale of vCenter,” Colbert said during a call with journalists days before VMworld kicked off. “We launched software-defined datacenter [SDDC] in 2012 or so, the idea there realizing that virtualizing compute was not enough, that we have to really virtualize the entire datacenter – networking, storage, management. We eventually had a product offering for that instantiation that we called VMware Cloud Foundation.”

VMware at the show unveiled its concept of a hybrid cloud platform – called VMware Cloud – that takes everything it’s done with SDDC, other technologies like NSX and VeloCloud in connectivity and management with vRealize and “bringing together a lot of the investments we’ve made over the past few years into a holistic experience for these customers and that is what we’re calling VMware Cloud. It’s an instantiation of the hybrid cloud platform,” he said.

VMware Cloud has an array of technologies and capabilities in both infrastructure and operations, covering everything from infrastructure to operations. There is hardware, software and services involved, with plans for more of everything.

On the cloud infrastructure side, VMware is making VMware Cloud on Dell EMC – part of a series of cloud announcements Dell made in the spring at the Dell Technologies World show – initially available in the United States and delivered as a service to enterprises for both the datacenter and edge locations. It was developed with Dell EMC and comprises vSphere (compute), vSAN (storage) and NSX (networking) integrated with Dell EMC’s VxRail hyperconverged infrastructure solution. The service if fully managed by VMware. A key part of the company’s cloud vision is giving enterprises choices of operating models, from having customers manage it themselves on premises or by hyperscaler cloud providers or managed service providers and delivered by technology or channel partners. Enterprises also can have VMware manage it either in the AWS cloud, on AWS’ Outposts hardware in the customers’ datacenter or with the Dell EMC solution.

The company also highlighted the growth of VMware Cloud on AWS over the past two years, including a three-fold increase in the number of customers and an increase of eight times in the number of VMs. The combination of cloud partners like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud and VMware Cloud providers has given the company a worldwide reach that includes more than 10,000 datacenters running more than 10 million cloud workloads.

With VMware Cloud on AWS, the company is introducing new migration and interconnectivity capabilities in its HCX migration tool and vSAN support for improved storage scaling. Organizations can extend the reach of applications through integration with native AWS services, and in the future also will be able to drive more modern workloads through technologies like Bitfusion and innovations such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics via partnerships with GPU-maker Nvidia and others.

VMware also introduced the Tanzu portfolio for Kubernetes, with the first being Tanzu Mission Control – in a tech preview – for managing Kubernetes across multiple environments. There also was a preview of Project Pacifica for transforming vSphere into a Kubernetes-native platform in a future release, leveraging existing technologies for modern platforms.

At the center of the innovations on the operations side was vRealize, again extending an existing technology for VMware Cloud. vRealize Operations 8.0, now in tech preview, is aimed at multicloud monitoring and self-driving hybrid cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure operations. vRealize Automation 8.0 will automate deployment and day 2 operations, VMs and containers on any cloud, and CloudHealth is aimed at multicloud environments for managing costs, governance and business policy. CloudHealth currently manages more than $8 billion of public cloud spending for more than 5,000 organizations and CloudHealth Hybrid will extend those capabilities to VMware hybrid cloud environments. A new dashboard on Wavefront – for visibility into applications through infrastructure in the cloud – includes enhanced Kubernetes monitoring.

In addition, VMware vRealize Suite 2019 will integrate both vRealize Automation 8 and vRealize Operations 8.

VMware also is introducing a VMware Cloud Marketplace that is powered by Bitnami and offering VMware and validated third-party solutions for VMware public, private and hybrid clouds. It’s available on VMware Cloud for AWS and VMware Cloud providers.

The VMworld announcements followed a series of other news in recent months by VMware as its looks to expand its cloud capabilities. Last week the company unveiled innovations to the VMware Cloud Provider Platform to make it easier for cloud providers to deliver hybrid cloud environments to organizations from locations ranging from customer and cloud provider datacenters to hyperscale public clouds. The company also announced plans to spend more than $4 billion to buy fellow Dell company Pivotal Software to further boost its Kubernetes capabilities and Carbon Black for cloud security.

In July, the company also announced an expanded partnership with Google Cloud to launch Google Cloud VMware Solution by CloudSimple, a service for running VMware workloads on Google cloud.

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