Today VMware announced the launch of Cloud Foundry – a cloud service that makes it easy for developers to get started with VMware’s Open Platform-as-a-Service (Open PaaS) offerings. VMware CTO Steve Herrod offered good insight into VMware’s plans for Cloud Foundry in this post. In case you missed it, last week Steve Herrod blogged about VMware taking over operations for EMC’s Mozy cloud-based data protection service.
So in the past week, VMware has quietly announced that it will host two cloud service offerings. I say “quietly” because there were no press releases or the usual fanfare. VMware has long positioned itself as an enabler for cloud service offerings. One can clearly say that today they still are. Cloud Foundry is a beta service that for now, is free. In the case of Mozy, VMware runs operations for the cloud data protection service, but doesn’t actually sell it (that responsibility stays with EMC).
With the past two announcements, you could say that VMware isn’t stepping on the toes of its provider partners, but it is standing so close to their toes that it is making them uncomfortable. VMware’s not a provider in the traditional sense today, but they are building an infrastructure and operational processes that can allow them to become a provider at the flick-of-a-switch. To me, the last two announcements equate to simple math.
Mozy + Cloud Foundry = Insurance
Right now VMware is moving forward as an enabler to cloud service providers and is doing well selling infrastructure and associated management software. By hosting some of their own cloud services, VMware can now test and perfect new innovations at an enterprise scale – all before releasing new software to end user organizations and provider partners. With Cloud Foundry, VMware is making a significant investment to further seed the Open PaaS community with expectations that it can grow to rival Microsoft’s .NET platform and Azure.
In the future, if there is massive consolidation in the cloud provider market due to economies of scale, the few providers left standing may determine that they no longer need VMware. If that happens, VMware needs insurance to ensure its survival in an increasingly cloudy world. In addition, it’s no secret that rivals Microsoft, Citrix, and Oracle are optimizing their hypervisors and application stacks to work better on their own products than rival hypervisors. As I’ve said before, VMware can’t remain primarily as a platform for Windows applications in an area where Microsoft is a direct competitor. That story always ends the same. So the success of Open PaaS is very strategic to VMware because in my opinion VMware needs a strong application platform to compete against the likes of Microsoft and Oracle long term.
Maybe I’m wrong here and all VMware will ever be is an enabler for cloud services. If you just consider Cloud Foundry, you might be able to draw that conclusion. When you combine the Cloud Foundry announcement with the recent Mozy announcement, it’s easy to see that VMware is building more in-house provider expertise that will strengthen its products. However, that expertise could easily evolve into a provider business if market demands warrant.