VMworld 2014 took place in San Francisco, CA this week, with ~22,000 attendees descending for the annual event that showcases VMware’s newest announcements and product/service advancements. I attended once again to pay particular attention to VMware’s cloud movements. Here are a few of my impressions.
Prior to VMworld, VMware announced a rebranding of vCloud Hybrid Service (VMware’s public cloud offering) to vCloud Air. A name is just a name, so I don’t really mind this change and in fact I think it is a simpler brand name. And simple is good.
Most important for vCloud Air is the future direction. vCloud Air is now 1 year old and Gartner clients routinely tell me that in its current state it does not stack up well in feature set to other public CSPs, namely Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. However, there continues to be incredible interest in the future of vCloud Air from the loyal VMware customer base. But where is it going and how fast?
VMware announced several major service expansions including an on-demand pricing model, an object storage service, a database as a service (DBaaS) offering, and a relationship with AT&T for NetBond connectivity into vCloud Air. There were many more announcements surrounding vCloud Air.
VMware leadership informed me that they don’t intend to get into a feature-by-feature war with other major cloud providers and will rather focus on use case differentiation. DRaaS and DaaS were mentioned multiple times in multiple venues as examples of use case differentiation.
I believe vCloud Air will actually have to do both – compete on feature and differentiate on use cases. Right now features are king in the Iaas and PaaS markets and customers will have decreasing tolerance for a non-competitive feature set. However, I think the innovation engine within vCloud Air is starting to move and the next 12 months will be fascinating. I also suspect VMware might have some tricks up their sleeves and look to differentiate in non-technical features that relate well to large enterprise with significant VMware investments.
Each of the services mentioned above are now baseline and mandatory features that all major clouds must have – so in many ways, vCloud Air is still far behind. Furthermore, these announcement services are just now in beta and will not move into GA for another quarter or two. Unfortunately, there were no announcements around pricing of these services and VMware will need to be careful here to not price themselves out of fierce competition.
Enterprises are quickly moving from tactical to strategic selections of IaaS and PaaS providers and these decisions are often made on current features and future roadmap. It’s not too late for vCloud Air but the clock ticks fast in this market. VMware will need to aggressively move these services from beta to GA and expand into other important features such as auto scaling, advanced auditing/logging and identity and access management.
vRealize Air Automation
Another common complaint I hear from customers that evaluate vCloud Air is the fact that significant sets of features are only available if you are running the on-premises vCloud Suite – vCloud Automation Center (vCAC) and vCenter Operations Manager (vCOps) being the two significant packages. Unfortunately a lot of the VMware customers that would benefit from vCloud Air are not paying the hefty license fees to operate and run vCAC and vCOps. Therefore, when these customers evaluate vCloud Air, the automation, management and monitoring functions of the native vCloud Air interface is less than impressive.
VMware announced that their management suite is now rebranded to “vRealize” and a new SaaS-based version of the suite would be rolled out named vRealize Air Automation. This is a big deal for future vCloud Air adoption because it no longer means that customers must run vCAC or other components internally – which limited a lot of the vCloud Air use to very large VMware customers. Those same very large VMware customers also tend to have robust environments and large datacenters – thereby potentially not yet needing vCloud Air. A SaaS-based solution for the vRealize Suite will open the door to many new vCloud Air customers – namely those without the on-premises tools but also will allow VMware to innovate on a feature set roadmap faster than they can do in a shipping product with major and minor version releases.
I expect the vRealize Air Automation solution to start to look and function more similar to the management consoles of AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform or IBM Softlayer. And it will also likely go much further and start to compete with popular SaaS-based Cloud Management Brokers like, CSC ServiceMesh, Dell Cloud Manager or Rightscale. According to customers, VMware is a very good management company and management is one of the stickiest parts to continue to leverage VMware technologies.
We do not yet know about the pricing of vRealize Air Automation, nor what the current feature set / roadmap looks like. This is slightly disappointing but not all that unexpected from typical major conference announcements where the announcement generates buzz and the details filter out afterward. I will be paying very close attention to this because I believe management is the emerging ugly issue in public cloud services.
VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO)
One of the lighter announcements on details is also one that I am most intrigued about. VMware announced VIO, essentially a VMware-based distribution for OpenStack. Right now, VIO basically just exposes OpenStack APIs into VMware infrastructure. But it holds longer-term promise. OpenStack is still plagued by installation problems, vendor support and management. But when you consider the large VMware install base within organizations, with a lot of untapped capacity, organizations may want a shortcut to convert some of that into an OpenStack cloud. This is where VMware could do quite well. VMware might be able to deliver this simplicity, but in its current iteration, I think it is still far from that. More importantly, I believe, is the potential for VMware to bring great management to an OpenStack solution.
Some industry experts want you to believe that you don’t need to manage a cloud. That is far from the truth, there is a lot of management necessary, you just manage different “things”. For example, consider something like auto scaling. You may need to manage VMs less than in a traditional architecture but you’ll have to manage the auto scaling group, the policies assigned to it and configuration and change of such policies. If VMware focuses hard on all the difficult management aspects to OpenStack, VIO has legs.
Docker and Kubernetes Collaboration
Although not a new technology, containers are all the rage in 2014 and will continue so in 2015. The hype in the industry has been that containers will replace VMs and VMware will be severely impacted. Well VMware counteracted this hype strongly at VMworld with an announcement of Docker and Kubernetes collaboration and contribution. I’ve always thought that there is room for containers and VMs to live together for the next several years. I see value in two layers of encapsulation, one at the OS (VM) and one at the app (container) and we cannot ignore the enterprise readiness of VM security and VM management tools. Container management and security still needs improvement so why not combine the two worlds?
This announcement is a very proactive move by VMware. The leadership clearly sees the value in containers and might even admit that far into the future VMs could be at risk. Well if that happens, it now looks like VMware is setup to adjust accordingly. If container management and Kubernetes functionality is integrated into existing VMware management tools, consider the future vision of managing both VMs and containers from a single pane of glass both in a hybrid (VM and container) world or in a transition (VMs to containers) world. This is a huge move and perhaps the best of the lot at VMworld.
There were several other fascinating announcements a bit more outside of my core coverage space so I encourage you to digest the press releases. Gartner clients should then contact the appropriate analyst at Gartner for a more in depth inquiry about what each announcement means for your organization.
What did you think about VMworld 2014?