SAN FRANCISCO—In a reverse of the ubiquitous safety warning, “objects in mirror are closer than they appear,” hybrid cloud computing, the talk of VMworld 2015, is still farther away than it appears.
VMware made several product announcements here this week that seemed to put hybrid cloud computing within reach for most enterprises. This is an idea that users can extend and link their enterprise with private clouds, public clouds and software-as-a-service clouds and manage it all as one computing infrastructure.
Those products include VMware’s new EVO SDDC for software-defined data center implementations and upgrades to key components of the VMware software stack, including NSX 6.2 networking and VSAN 6.1 storage, to create hyperscale private, public and hybrid clouds—and everything in between.
But debate still rages over what hybrid cloud computing really means and if today’s example of hybrid cloud computing is something enterprise users want or need.
“The unified hybrid cloud is about enabling a global point of view across multiple clouds,” VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said in his keynote speech. “A single cloud across many instances … the unified hybrid cloud is the future.”
Cut to the IDC’s analyst briefing a day later, and the future looks a lot different. “At the infrastructure level, there is no such thing as a hybrid cloud,” said Rick Villars, vice president for data center and cloud for IDC. “Hybrid is a way [for suppliers] to position themselves to support customers in their transition [to cloud computing].”
In other words, hybrid cloud is still pure marketing spin. A nicer way to put it is that hybrid—if that is indeed something enterprises want—is still in its formative stage and that the true vision is still a work in progress.
Villars cited conversations with customers who say that hybrid remains a huge challenge in the enterprise. “Hybrid cloud is an excellent description for the environment we find ourselves in because of how we have done cloud over the past few years,” said Villars, quoting a customer. “But it’s a terrible description of the strategy we’d like to adopt and use cloud better going forward.”
Delving further into Villars’ analysis, however, it does seem that, indeed, VMware is almost there and certainly presents more than just a vision. What customers want, he said, is a common set of resources for managing multiple clouds.
VMware—Check. The company has the potential to do that for most cloud environments, including but not limited to vCloud Air and OpenStack implementations. Users also want consistent information about performance, use of assets and energy consumption, he said. VMware—Double check.
But as is so often the case with enterprise IT, it’s not so much about the technology as it is about the people, processes and culture of an organization along with IT’s fundamental mission to solve specific business problems.
VMware Says It’s Ready to Build Hybrid Clouds for Enterprises
How fast organizations can react to the technology that is enabling cloud computing will determine how successful they will be at making cloud work for them.
In addition, Villars said, enterprises need more than software (or in the case of EVO SDDC, a full rack of hardware to go with it). They need partners that will offer them services, a range of technology options and financing.
Hyperscale for All
The hybrid message may be a sign that VMware can’t compete with Microsoft, Google and Amazon for public cloud business. But VMware is really thinking bigger than just enabling customers to seamlessly operate between their enterprise and clouds. They are thinking that enterprises can give the big cloud guys a run for their money, and save money in the process.
“Amazon’s and Google’s advantage isn’t their scale,” Chad Sakac, president, global systems engineering at EMC, VMware’s parent company, said at a VMworld session. “Everyone thinks it’s their scale that has made them super-awesome. It’s actually not their scale. What their hyperscale has allowed them to do is hyper-automatize around what they are really good at and be able to do that at very large scale. [Users] can build all sorts of different cloud structures that in many cases can smoke the hyperscale guys on economics.”
That may be near-impossible for today’s enterprises. But going forward, VMware can play facilitator with the big guys to make hybrid computing as seamless as possible while users get their cloud-native IT shops in order. In that spirit, VMware this week announced vCloud Air Object Storage, through which VMware will sell customers access to Google Cloud Storage via vCloud Air, creating petabyte-scale options for disaster recovery and business continuity. vCloud Air Object Storage also will be available from a ViPR-based storage service being developed by EMC.
But other than that, little was said about working closer with Microsoft Azure or AWS. For VMware and its customers to truly realize the vision of unified hybrid cloud, the company is going to have to continue to break down corporate and technology barriers that currently exist among all the other clouds that enterprises use. That may be VMware’s biggest challenge yet.
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, 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.