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Despite Some Bumps, Project Zephyr Still Alive At VMware

Project Zephyr, VMware's top-secret public cloud IaaS play, is still on track despite running into development delays and internal red tape, according to sources with knowledge of the effort.

VMware's Project Zephyr public cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service is still part of the vendor's plans, though its progress over the past several months has been far from smooth, sources told CRN this week.

As first reported by CRN in August, Zephyr is VMware's as-yet unreleased answer to Amazon, Rackspace, Google and Microsoft in public cloud IaaS. Zephyr has endured a number of stops and starts since then, with senior management disagreeing on strategic direction and development taking longer than expected, sources said.

Sources told CRN in October that Zephyr was in beta and on course for a rollout in 2013, but it's no longer clear if that is still the case.

"One day it looks like [Zephyr] will happen, and the next day, it looks like it's been tabled. At the top levels there is someone who isn't quite convinced it's the best strategy," one source told CRN Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

VMware is committed to moving forward with Zephyr, even though its time frame for rolling it out isn't clear at this stage, sources told CRN.

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

VMware did not respond to a request for a status update on Zephyr. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor previously has said it does not comment on rumors or speculation.

Zephyr is built on VMware hosted data center infrastructure and uses its vCloud Director, vCenter Management Suite and Site Recovery Manager products, as well as Cisco UCS and EMC Avamar backup software.

It's possible VMware hasn't yet figured out where Zephyr fits or whether to make it part of the Pivotal Initiative, the cloud Platform-as-a-Service and big data spinoff VMware is launching with EMC, sources told CRN.

Led by former VMware CEO and current EMC Chief Strategy Officer Paul Maritz, the Pivotal Initiative combines VMware's GemStone and SpringSource development teams, and its Cloud Foundry PaaS and Cetas big data units, with EMC's Greenplum and Pivotal Labs organizations.

VMware has never publicly confirmed Zephyr's existence, as doing so would almost certainly have a lasting negative impact on its vCloud partner relationships.

NEXT: Zephyr's Impact On VMware's vCloud Channel

Zephyr is viewed in some circles as VMware's attempt to motivate vCloud service providers -- a group that includes companies such as AT&T, Bluelock and CSC -- to embrace vCloud Director and work more closely with the VMware channel to sell cloud services.

Some vCloud partners said they have grown frustrated with the state of VMware's vCloud ecosystem and are exploring other options, although they're not planning to ditch VMware entirely. One partner said issues with VMware's go-to-market model, and the high cost of participating in the vCloud program, is causing his company to seek other vendor partners.

"People are looking at other public clouds that are more robust. It's hard to compete if you are selling only VMware vCloud," said one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They will always be a piece of the platform because ESX is stable and good for the enterprise. But we are also forming allegiances with the CloudStack and OpenStack partners."

VMware clearly sees the importance of playing in public cloud IaaS. In a VMware-commissioned survey of more than 240 IT professionals in the U.S. and Europe published in October, research firm Enterprise Strategy Group found that 80 percent are using IaaS for production workloads and 67 percent are entrusting their mission-critical workloads to IaaS.

VMware previously has said it doesn't want to be an infrastructure provider, and it created the vCloud channel to address the public cloud IaaS market. This makes sense because building data centers is far more capital-intensive than selling software to run them.

Yet over the course of past year VMware has repeatedly shown a willingness to depart from established norms in response to changing market conditions. Perhaps Zephyr could end up being another example.


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