Here’s why VMware hasn’t left it too late with its hybrid cloud push

Picture credit: “VMware HPTF Booth”, by “Luke Kilpatrick”, used under CC BY / Modified from original

Opinion This week has been a pretty big one for VMware. The San Francisco end user computing giant has launched what it claims to be the industry’s first unified platform of virtualised compute, networking and storage for the hybrid cloud, as well as announcing new partners for its Partner Network.

Despite past claims that VMware had been a bit late to the cloud party, only pushing out vCloud Air in 2013, the firm is taking big steps to remedy it with a litany of products as part of its hybrid push: VMware vSphere 6, the foundation for the software-defined data centre, VMware Integrated OpenStack, VMware Virtual SAN and vSphere Virtual Volumes, for mass enterprise adoption of software-defined storage, and VMware vCloud Air, bridging public and private clouds to enable a secure network domain.

The soundbites around the announcements were as you’d expect. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a statement: “Every traditional industry across the globe is being transformed by software. To navigate and thrive in the face of this change, businesses must be decisive in the face of uncertainty.

“Today, we are taking another leap forward in helping our customers meet these demands through a unified platform, defined in software, which will offer unmatched choice and extends our innovations across compute, networking and storage to deliver the hybrid cloud,” he added.

The past 12 to 18 months have seen plenty of change from VMware in adopting to a cloud strategy, opening data centres at the rate of approximately one a month last year, including one in Chessington in July. There’s a lot of noise – but what is the overall view of how successful the strategy is?

The first point to note is the company’s image is still in a process of flux. Regular readers of CloudTech will know that it takes months, if not years, for mindsets to change from traditional software to cloud. IBM, for example, has been telling anyone and everyone that it’s now a cloud first company, and put $1bn of investments into that very purpose.

But it’s a different story here. As chief cloud technologist Simone Brunozzi told Bloomberg, when he joined VMware a year ago “most companies were not aware of the fact that we were doing cloud at all.” VMware’s expertise in virtualisation technologies is well-founded, but this is a completely different ball game.

Oracle is regarded as a similar latecomer to the cloud mindset; despite undergoing a boardroom shuffle and gobbling up various high level cloud employees, from SAP’s former head of cloud Shawn Price to Google App Engine mastermind Peter Magnusson, the company’s still playing catch-up.

Yet all this may be insignificant. Why? VMware’s concerted push in the still-not-quite-mature hybrid cloud space means there’s room to manoeuvre.

This time last year, the key tenet for the company was end user computing and enterprise mobility, as evinced in the acquisition of AirWatch. Now, hybrid cloud is an ideal arena in which to play. More than half (58%) of attendees at the 2014 Cloud Expo and AWS Summit admitted they are building hybrid cloud solutions for their organisations. A January study from IDC and Red Hat found 69% of respondents were using at least four public cloud IaaS platforms – including VMware vCloud Hybrid Service.

For larger organisations, they’re neither going all-in to the cloud or all on one cloud – it’s a healthy mix. Yet VMware’s disaster recovery service, announced in April last year, is aimed at curing reticent customers of their cloud phobia.

Of course, there’s a long way to go before VMware is at the front of the queue in hybrid cloud vendors. IBM pushed out an announcement citing Synergy Research figures positioning it as numero uno in hybrid and private enterprise cloud. Yet the signs are there. As IDC analyst Gary Chen put it; VMware won’t capture all of the business out there, but if a company their size is making more and more noise, it’s getting increasingly difficult to ignore them.

Find out more about VMware’s hybrid cloud announcements here.

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