With Help From EMC, VMware Preps For Its Public Cloud Debut

VMware executives have Amazon on the brain, and by attacking Amazon's stronghold in the public cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service space, they're hoping to find a cure for their obsession.

VMware's public cloud IaaS, which has been in the works for the better part of a year, is currently in limited beta and is slated to be unveiled in mid-April, sources familiar with VMware's plans told CRN this week. It's designed to allow customers to move their on-premise private cloud workloads to public cloud infrastructure that's owned and operated by VMware, sources said.

This is a surprising departure from the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor's longstanding strategy of letting service providers handle public cloud IaaS exclusively. But Amazon's steady inroads in public cloud, and the possibility that customers could start using it for critical workloads, have apparently convinced VMware to change its approach.

VMware didn't respond to a request for comment for this story but has previously said it doesn't respond to rumors or speculation.

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Amazon EC2 is viewed in some industry circles as "rogue IT" that has flourished only because of the lack of enterprise-appropriate alternatives. By staking a claim in public cloud IaaS now, VMware is aiming to solve challenges that Amazon has yet to address.

VMware's public cloud will include orchestration, automation, management and security features that will appeal to enterprise customers and keep them away from Amazon, sources told CRN. With tools such as DynamicOps and vCenter Operations, which can monitor workloads in public cloud environments, VMware is setting itself up to handle management in heterogeneous environments.

[Related: VMware Taking Fight To Amazon With Top Secret Public Cloud Project ]

EMC, which owns about 80 percent of VMware shares, is playing an important role in VMware's public cloud project. EMC's Avamar backup and recovery products will be integrated with VMware's public cloud by the end of the year, and EMC has committed Avamar engineers to speed the process, sources told CRN.

EMC is also embedding vSphere into its VNX storage products, which are optimized for virtual apps, and this will allow VNX to tie seamlessly into the VMware public cloud, sources said.

Last year, VMware and EMC were reportedly working on a pair of IaaS-related initiatives, Project Zephyr and Project Rubicon, but VMware's forthcoming public cloud IaaS is a separate project, sources told CRN.

VMware's public cloud IaaS will run on the same vCloud stack its service providers are using, along with vCloud Director, VMware's management platform for coordinating pools of virtual resources.

While it's unclear at this stage what the pricing model will look like, sources told CRN VMware could drive prices down even further in the public cloud space, which is already seeing rampant competition.

NEXT: Service Providers Weigh In On VMware's Public Cloud

Shawn Mills, founder and president of Green House Data, a Cheyenne, Wyo.-based vCloud service provider, said while VMware's entry into the public cloud could add pricing pressure, partners can differentiate themselves by offering a superior level of service to end customers.

"VMware's public cloud will probably be less expensive than ours, and if I was out there selling on price, I would be concerned by that. But I'm not, so this doesn't bother me," Mills told CRN when informed of VMware's public cloud plans.

"VMware is backed by EMC, so their costs are going to be much lower. If they're going to have the same services model as Amazon, with no contract and the ability to use-at-will, vCloud service providers will have a tough time competing unless they have very specific vertical markets," said one service provider, who requested anonymity.

VMware's entry into the public cloud space could cause service providers to seriously consider alternatives such as OpenStack and CloudStack. But it's not as if VMware is abandoning its partners: In a Thursday tweet, VMware noted that it now has 211 service providers offering vCloud services in 31 countries. VMware is also still running its vCloud evaluation, which lets partners "test-drive" vCloud public cloud services delivered by an anonymous VMware service provider partner.

VMware was expected to announce its public cloud IaaS last week at its Partner Exchange conference, but that didn't happen. VMware did announce Cloud Credits, a program designed to get VMware's solution partners working more closely with service providers in selling public cloud services.

At the conference, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger urged partners to keep their customers away from the allures of the Amazon public cloud. "We all lose if they end up in these commodity public clouds," Gelsinger said at the event. "We want to extend our franchise from the private cloud into the public cloud and uniquely enable our customers with the benefits of both."

This sounded like the sort of bluster that often emanates from partner conferences, but it could have been a foreshadowing of what VMware has in store. If there was any doubt that Gelsinger was brought in to lead VMware in a new direction, VMware's entry into the public cloud space would be the clearest evidence yet.