VMware Moves Beyond Legacy Systems to Center of Multi-Cloud World

NEWS ANALYSIS: VMware has put aside its image as a provider of legacy data center system by fully embracing the multi-cloud concept that allows it to work as a partner with top enterprise cloud service providers.

New Azure Cloud Zones

LAS VEGAS—Just a few years ago VMware was counted out as a legacy technology provider that was being overrun by Docker containers and declared a non-player in the cloud after famously selling off vCloud Air. 

Today things are much different since VMware is back at the center of the cloud picture—that is the fast-evolving multi-cloud concept and all that it entails, including private, hybrid and public clouds, Software as a Service, edge computing, and IoT environments. 

Patience has paid off for the company, which sowed the seeds over the last few years, with NSX network virtualization, VSAN software-defined storage, improvements to vSphere compute and vRealize management and automation tools, which have come together to create a fabric that can manage workloads across computing environments. 

VMworld 2018 here, VMware announced updates to those products along with a vision for how it is working to bind them into a universal control plane for multi-cloud computing. 

Extending the network 

The key product is NSX-T Data Center, the NSX version for multi-hypervisor environments. VMware has updated it to support applications in Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, thus extending the security and micro-segmentation features to those clouds. VMware claims 7,500 customers for NSX, up from about 1,700 two years ago. 

Jumping in with NSX is networking gear maker Arista, which has enabled its switch operating system to learn the NSX policies and access them in the physical switches. Arista switches are already prominent with cloud service providers such as Azure, and the NSX integration will help it take on Cisco in the enterprise. 

Close partner Amazon Web Services also has extended its VMware Cloud on AWS offering, with new regions in Asia-Pacific and new lower-cost pricing options. Along with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, AWS CEO Andy Jassy said that VMware Cloud will be in all AWS regions by the end of next year. Finally, Amazon continued its own push into the enterprise data center by making its relational database service, Amazon RDS, available for internal VMware environments. 

Seizing the multi-cloud opportunity 

Multi-cloud has had its run as an industry buzzword, but the fact is, according to industry analysts at IDC, multi-cloud is happening. An IDC survey found that 75 percent of more than 6,000 IT organizations say they work with more than one cloud vendor; 40 percent work with at least four, and 8 percent use more than 10 vendors. 

Multi-cloud is both an opportunity and a challenge, the analysts say. Multi-cloud enables users to put the right workloads in the right environments, but also adds complexity. By enabling its software stack to work in multiple environments, VMware addresses that complexity by letting users work within a single common toolset. 

Instead of trying to beat Amazon Web Services at its own game, VMware has leveraged its position in the enterprise data center to build cloud computing from the inside out. "We have seen a move away from trying to be an alternative to the public clouds to being more of a connector and integration point," said IDC Senior Analyst Rick Villars at a presentation here. 

A new dimension 

VMware is also working with parent company Dell on synchronizing release dates for VMware software with new server products. A more long range vision is Project Dimension, an offering that will bundle the VMware Cloud Foundation software into a managed hyperconverged appliance assembled by Dell and Lenovo initially. VMware officials here said they are actively recruiting more partners and beta testers for the project. 

Dimension could be viewed as a “baby Azure Stack,” or a takeoff on Microsoft’s effort to bring the complete Azure cloud environment into enterprise data centers, officials said here. VMware envisions the product as a way to tie branch locations together using the VeloCloud-based NSX SD-WAN software and to act as a gateway for Internet of Things devices and applications. 

But VMware can’t do everything by itself. Also in the mix are support partners such as Rackspace, which actively discussing support for Project Dimension with VMware, said Peter FitzGibbon, vice president and general manager for Rackspace, in an interview with eWEEK. 

Rackspace already has deep domain expertise with VMware and announced its own VMware-based managed private cloud service at Dell Technologies World in April. FitzGibbon sees further opportunities around supporting Dimension and the VeloCloud along with VMware Cloud on AWS offerings. 

“VMware is highlighting what is really starting to get adopted at this point, which is technologies announced a few years ago,” he said. “We are seeing wholesale adoption of [NSX and VSAN] from our customer base. We have managed services specifically designed for them and help customers get the full value of them. But the majority of customers are still two to three years behind the hype cycle.” 

The majority of VMware’s 500,000 customers still have yet to fully adopt multi-cloud, NSX, VSAN, and other parts of its Cloud Foundation stack, but with this week’s announcements, VMware is giving their customers more reasons to stay the course and build out cloud and edge applications at their own pace—and with tools they are familiar with. 

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...