Some work out, most don't. Hope springs eternal.
But the announcement of IBM and VMware getting together to deliver cloud services certainly deserves closer inspection -- at least by me.
On one level, it makes perfect sense. On another level, not so much.
While we'll likely have to wait a year or more to see if this particular spawning bears any offspring, it's definitely worth discussing.
What Was Announced
From the press release:
IBM and VMware have jointly designed an architecture and cloud offering that will enable customers to automatically provision pre-configured VMware SDDC environments, consisting of VMware vSphere, NSX and Virtual SAN on the IBM Cloud
Another take from someone writing on Forbes is here. And I'm sure there will be many more opinion pieces to join mine over the next few days :)
No real specifics were discussed about actual availability, as you'd expect.
Why This Makes Sense
On one level, you can see what each party gets from this arrangement.
VMware, which has been telling a hybrid cloud story for at least five years, has yet to deliver an attractive, compatible enterprise-class public cloud offering to complement their on-premises capabilities. First, there was supposed to be vCloud Director and a partner network. Without being critical, vCloud Air has struggled.
And then there was that recent headfake around EMC and Virtustream.
Bottom line: VMware needs a compatible, enterprise-class cloud, and fast. Smaller partners couldn't deliver. VMware itself couldn't deliver. EMC couldn't deliver. Presumably, this wasn't a business that Dell was interested in. HP is still smarting from cancelling their last big cloud initiative. Cisco? We won't go there.
So IBM is a logical choice. Ain't many other choices out there, are there?
IBM theoretically gets access to an enormous vSphere installed base to sell compatible cloud services. My joke about BlueMix is that it's like dark matter; I'm sure it's out there, I just don't have any compelling evidence. IBM can potentially add standardized, easy-to-consume vSphere-based cloud services to their existing portfolio, and doesn't really give up anything in the process.
On paper, there's a certain logic to this. Not mention urgency, as Amazon / Microsoft / Oracle all are in the cloud business today, so time is short.
What Doesn't Make Sense
The first thing that struck me is that VMware theoretically ends up doing quite well, IBM not as much.
I don't see much room for upsell for additional services, as these will be competing with customers who are quite comfortable today doing infrastructure in-house -- whether assembled or pre-integrated.
IBM can charge a small premium, but not much.
The other invisible piece of the equation is the cloud service provider operating system: that entity that provisions clusters and VMs on behalf of multiple tenants.
This is a non-trivial piece of software to create and mature. Will IBM take existing vCloud Air code and try and whip it into shape? Create their own cloud controller? Something else? Not clear to me, but it's an important question as it's this critical piece of software that makes a public cloud a public cloud.
There's also the thorny problem of existing VMware EULAs. VMware has sold a boatload of these. Can these customers take their licenses to IBM's cloud, or do they have to buy again? Details, details.
And, let's keep in mind, there are certain demanding workloads that many IT pros won't run on vSphere -- no matter how much powerpoint you put in front of them.
What's not clear is how long. A year? Maybe more? The market is moving fast. My view is that -- unless you already have a viable enterprise cloud service in the marketplace today -- it's probably too late to start a new one.
And, not to be snarky, VMware customers have every right to be skeptical about yet another forthcoming VMware cloud strategy. I've sort of lost count. No, wait, this is the one ...
Finally, there's not going to be a lot of air cover from the mothership on this one: either EMC or (soon) Dell.
Yes, VMware is independent, but when your corporate parents take a dim view of things, it's never easier.
Not to imagine some potentially awkward conversations. Customer to VMware/EMC/Dell rep "what's your strategy for hybrid cloud?" Errr, call IBM?
The Inevitable Oracle Comparison
- A fully-featured and successful public cloud offering: SaaS, PaaS and IaaS -- plus a boatload more. It would take you a week to go through everything that's there.
- Providing compatible public cloud equivalents to what we sell on-premises, e.g. Exadata Cloud Service. Think of this as "cloud insurance" if you will.
- The ability to bring a fully-featured public cloud model on-premises.
All from a single vendor engineering the stack, and supporting everything. None require a "strategic partnership" to be successful; Oracle controls its own destiny -- which I find somewhat reassuring.
What All This Means
It should be clear by now: cloud is the new enterprise architecture. Public and private clouds need to work closely together to deliver the agile IT framework demanded by the digital economy.
If you're a traditional IT vendor that can't show their customers how to easily and confidently get to integrated public/private, life is going to get much harder for you -- and your customers.
The future is coming fast.
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