VMware Poised For Public Cloud Splash, But Partners Still Reeling

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The word "zephyr" is defined as a gentle breeze coming from the west. That description doesn't quite fit Project Zephyr, the code name for VMware's public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service, which is about to give VMware's service provider partners a jarring wake-up call.

Project Zephyr will mark VMware's entry into a public cloud market in which Amazon, Microsoft and Google are well entrenched. It's a bold move, and perhaps a necessary one, but VMware partners are concerned about the prospect of channel conflict.

"We're really not happy about this," one vCloud service provider partner told CRN Friday. "Not only will we be competing with VMware directly, we could also find ourselves competing with smaller partners that have made little or no investment in cloud infrastructure."

[Related: VMware's 'Project Zephyr' Challenges Amazon, Microsoft In Public Cloud Battle]

VMware service providers are also irritated by the lack of communication they're getting from the vendor. Of the half-dozen that CRN spoke with this week, none had any advance warning of Project Zephyr, nor have they heard anything from VMware since CRN first reported on the project Wednesday.

VMware could not be reached for comment Friday, but has previously said it does not comment on rumors or speculation.

VMware has purchased a large chunk of data center space in Nevada and for the past few months has been using it to run a beta of the Project Zephyr service, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. The service runs on VMware cloud software and EMC Avamar storage gear, with Cisco USC as the computing platform.

VMware dominates the server virtualization and private cloud markets, but it has found the public cloud a tougher nut to crack. Its original plan was to tackle the public cloud by partnering with service providers like AT&T, Bluelock and CSC, but that hasn't been happening quickly enough, sources said.

Sources told CRN VMware believes that waiting any longer could cause it to lose market share, and its pricing for Project Zephyr will determine how quickly it can lure customers away from Amazon and Google.

Project Zephyr isn't as much of a worry for partners that have adopted a specialized approach to the market. Shawn Mills, founder and president of Green House Data, a Cheyenne, Wyo.-based vCloud service provider, expects VMware to enter the public cloud market with aggressive pricing but isn’t concerned about his customers defecting.

"We compete against Rackspace and Amazon every day, and we win business by offering a high-touch, boutique feel and access to engineers," Mills told CRN. "All service providers are going to have to differentiate themselves no matter what VMware does."

NEXT: Parallels Between VMware’s Project Zephyr And Microsoft’s BPOS

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