VMware Showcasing vCloud Director In New Cloud Bundle

vCloud Director has become VMware's second most important product after vSphere, and it is central to the vendor's vision of virtual data centers running entirely on software.

Yet few people outside the VMware ecosystem understand what vCloud Director is and what it does. That’s a problem for VMware and a potential roadblock to its cloud computing ambitions.

With Tuesday's launch of vCloud Suite 5.1, VMware is looking to get customers better acquainted with vCloud Director by bundling it with vSphere and its other management, security and storage products.

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

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Steve Kaplan, vice president of virtualization and cloud at Presidio Networked Solutions, Greenbelt, Md., describes vCloud Director as a cloud management platform that abstracts virtualized resources and makes them available to users through a self-service catalogue. vCloud Director's built-in automation can handle time consuming IT tasks -- such as configuring a network -- in minutes.

All three versions of vCloud Suite 5.1 -- Standard, Advanced and Enterprise -- come with vCloud Director, and Kaplan expects that strategy to drive increased usage.

"VMware is going to force vCloud Director everywhere, and that is going to force the channel to learn it," he told CRN. "Customers are going to get it in the [vCloud Suite 5.1] bundle, and they're going to want to know how to use it and what to do with it."

VMware is selling vCloud Suite 5.1 as a single product SKU, and it is also giving vSphere Enterprise and Enterprise Plus customers a free upgrade to vCloud Suite 5.1 under a promotion that runs through the end of the year.

Scott Miller, director of cloud and virtualization at World Wide Technology, a Maryland Heights, Mo.-based solution provider, is pleased to see VMware ditching its previous piecemeal approach to selling cloud infrastructure products.

"The problem with selling all those things a la carte is some customers decided they don't need things like chargeback, for example. Putting them in a suite will make it easier for the VMware channel to sell," Miller said in an interview.

Brad Maltz, chief technical officer at ICI, a Marlborough, Mass.-based VMware partner, sees vCloud Suite 5.1 as a services opportunity that will drive vCloud Director into the IT mainstream.

"People have been holding off on implementing vCloud Director for many reasons," he told CRN in an interview at VMworld earlier this month. "The vCloud Suite will remove the barriers from a cost perspective, but not some of the other barriers to vCloud Director adoption."

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GreenPages, a Kittery, Maine-based firm that is one of VMware's top partners, is expecting to see a spike in demand for vCloud Suite 5.1 related services in the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year. In the meantime, GreenPages is getting its team ready with technical training.

"We are really working internally to ’gear up’ on both vCloud Director and vCenter Operations [management software] to meet the anticipated demand on both our subcontracting and normal reseller and VAR business units," Chris Ward, vice president of consulting and integration at GreenPages, said in an email.

vCloud Director is a new product for many organizations, and they will need help dealing with the operational challenges that it brings to an environment. This is an area where partners can provide implementation services.

Presidio’s Kaplan, who co-authored a book on vCloud Director, agrees that vCloud Director presents a formidable learning curve. "It's not easy to give an elevator pitch for vCloud Director. It's a framework, and it's a lot more difficult to describe than a product. This is not like selling a new model of server," he said.

Sluggish adoption of vCloud Director among VMware's service provider partners is said to be a motivation for Project Zephyr, its as-yet unannounced public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service, which CRN first reported on last month.

VMware is figuring that if it can increase adoption of vCloud Director on the customer side, service providers will follow suit. But according to Miller, service providers will have to rebuild scripted environments to work with vCloud Director, which is a time consuming process.

While vCloud Director has yet to impact the broader VMware channel, Miller expects to see it eventually become a key product for partners.

"vCloud Director is now fully baked and able to handle cloud multi-tenant architecture," he said. "Even getting vCloud Director into test/dev environments would be a great start, so customers can see the value of running vApps and using it as their foundation."