LAS VEGAS—The concept of internet time—where everything seems to happen much faster than the normal pace of life—may or may not be a myth, but it is a double-edged sword for VMware.
Here at the annual VMworld conference, the virtualization pioneer is working fast to make VMware viable in a cloud-native world—but maybe not at internet speed. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger talked about how cloud computing is still a young phenomenon but one with plenty of growth and obviously a long future ahead.
That growth will take awhile, even at the pace of the internet. He cited internal research that 50 percent of enterprise workloads will run in the cloud in some form—public, private or hybrid—by 2021. But public cloud workloads won’t have a 50 percent share until about 2030. The number of workloads in the public cloud will increase as well, from 160 million workloads this year to almost 600 million by 2030.
Read one way, 2030 is plenty of time to get existing customers enabled on the public cloud using VMware technology. But viewed in another way, it may be too late by 2030 to rescue laggard enterprises or enterprises that never move to the cloud in some form. But the truth is we have only a vague idea what computing will look like in 2030.
But considering how fast cloud-native development, containers and microservices are taking over application strategies, many observers here believe the public cloud will get to 50 percent earlier than that, with an even larger number of workloads. That pace seems feasible, since as VMware Networking CTO Bruce Davie declared: “Today, the developer is king.”
The shift is already happening. Many of VMware’s own customers are having success working the public cloud into their environments. Analyst firms Gartner and IDC have shown that enterprise dollars are quickly being redistributed to cloud services, with Gartner predicting $1 trillion of spending moving to the cloud between now and 2020.
So why is VMware stalling in relation to most other cloud players? The answer is the tightrope Gelsinger and VMware are walking with regard to how fast its customers want to move to the cloud while maintaining their existing data center resources. Will VMware be merely a bridge to the cloud future, or will it be an integral part of that future?
VMware is indeed working hard to enable the transition. Its latest initiatives around Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services are all about making the cloud work for the enterprise. Even more significant is the work being done around NSX network virtualization, virtual SAN storage and vSphere Integrated Containers (VICs), all of which will be key cloud-native enablers for VMware and its customers.
VICs, now in beta, are specially designed virtual machines that run “as containers,” officials said, and can be managed by container tools such as Docker, Kubernetes, Mesos and Cloud Foundry. VICs now include Admiral, a container management portal, and Harbor, a container registry—each implementations of Docker’s open-source tools.
VMware’s Long View of Cloud Transformation May Be Too Conservative
VICs enable VMware to give customers container functionality if they want it and to run containers in a familiar environment without radical surgery to data centers. Karthik Narayan, senior product manager for VMware’s Cloud-Native Apps group, argues that despite the rhetoric around what constitutes a true container environment, container-based applications can live in VMs.
“If you look at containerized workloads out there today, the vast majority are already running on VMs [in public clouds, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure],” Narayan said. “We want to stay within the zone of success and apply that experience to the new world.”
One major customer echoed that sentiment. “The reality is most of our folks are trained and experts on specific technologies, VMware being one of them,” said Marriott International Senior Vice President Alan Rosa. “We know it’s going to work, and when we’ve ventured too far onto the wild side we have had ‘interesting’ results.”
The VMware ecosystem remains large and vibrant, a point accentuated by Michael Dell during his brief appearance on stage. What is obvious, however, is that VMware is no longer the only option for partners when it comes to the cloud.
VMware will need work fast to persuade customers who do want to work in containers to give VICs a try, a point made by software-defined storage partner Nexenta. “The container push has already started,” said Nexenta CEO Tarkan Maner. “Application developers are already there, building in containers.”
IBM is also helping VMware’s push. The two companies expanded their relationship here with the announcement of making Cloud Foundation services available on IBM SoftLayer along with programs to help users migrate.
VMware, like so many “legacy” IT vendors, is in a race against time. How much time is the question. At the annual “Titans of Tech” ask-the-experts session this week, the subject of time came up. “What will be the big things we will be talking about here in three to five years?” an attendee asked.
Chad Sakac, president of EMC’s VCE unit, had the answer. “Three to five years from now we will be talking about the maturity of technologies now on the fringe,” he said. “For the bigger game changers, you will have to look 10 to 20 years out.”
We won’t have to wait that long to see if VMware is right.
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.