VMware Struggling With Hybrid Cloud 'Test Drive' Sign-Up Delays

VMware is having trouble keeping up with demand for its Hybrid Cloud Evaluation, a service first unveiled last August that lets users take a "test drive" on a VMware-powered public cloud run by an anonymous partner and pay for it with a credit card.

VMware earlier this month launched a 90-day free trial and renamed the offering, which was previously known as vCloud Service Evaluation. It offers a choice of Windows or Linux and comes with access to 2 virtual machines, 2 CPUs, 2 GB of RAM and a 50 GB disk.

Last week, several sources told CRN their attempts to sign up were greeted with the following error message: "We were unable to log you in: Your vCloud service has not completed provisioning. If you recently signed up for service please wait at least 15 minutes for this to complete."

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One source told CRN his Hybrid Cloud Evaluation account took five hours to be provisioned, a delay he called "unacceptable" considering that Amazon and Microsoft Windows Azure offer much quicker access. Another source, who signed up last Friday, told CRN his account still hasn’t been provisioned.

A VMware spokesperson told CRN Monday the vendor is aware of the provisioning issue and is in the process of fixing it. "We experienced a spike in sign-ups for the evaluation service with the introduction of the free 90 day trial, which led to a backlog of requests," the spokesperson said in an email. "We are actively working to resolve this and regret that some customers had to wait longer for their service to be provisioned."

Frank Basanta, managing director at Systems Solutions, a New York-based VMware partner, says the technical issues with Hybrid Cloud Evaluation don't bode well for VMware's ability to compete with Google, Amazon and Microsoft in the public cloud space. "In order for this to work, VMware has to make it easier for individuals and companies to purchase cloud capacity," he said.

When VMware launched the vCloud Service Evaluation beta last August, it emphasized that the service wasn't running on its own public infrastructure, but that of one of its vCloud service provider partners, which it didn't name. While this stipulation is absent from the Hybrid Cloud Evaluation site, VMware says users looking for a production environment should talk to a VMware partner.

Currently, at least some of the virtual machines that users spin up on the Hybrid Cloud Evaluation are hosted at Virtacore Systems, a Sterling, Va.-based VMware service provider partner. A Virtacore spokesperson contacted by CRN Monday declined to comment on the company's role in running the Hybrid Cloud Evaluation.

VMware didn't respond to a question about Virtacore's role and whether other service providers are involved in running the service.

VMware's approach to public cloud has been to steer customers to its service provider partners and encourage its traditional channel partners to do the same. That's changing, though, as VMware is now taking a more active role in its public cloud business.

Last week, VMware unveiled vCloud Hybrid Service, which marks the vendor's entry to the public cloud space. VMware will own and operate the service but will run it in its partners' data centers, though it hasn't yet said which partners will be involved.

NEXT: VMware's vCloud Hybrid Service Goal

Despite having a similar name, the Hybrid Cloud Evaluation is not related to the vCloud Hybrid Service. "What VMware will be introducing later in the year is nothing like the Hybrid Cloud Evaluation," one source with knowledge of the matter told CRN.

VMware's goal with vCloud Hybrid Service is to solve security, networking and other public cloud challenges that have kept many enterprises on the sidelines. In last week's meeting with investors, VMware COO Carl Eschenbach described the forthcoming service as "a safe landing pad in the public cloud" that would allow customers to move on-premise workloads back and forth.

VMware service providers could be forgiven for thinking this sounds familiar, as this was one of the original goals of the vCloud ecosystem. "There were all these certified providers ready and willing to migrate your VMs back and forth if needed. They seem to have just abandoned that I guess," Tom Nats, managing partner at Bit Refinery, a Denver-based VMware service provider partner, told CRN.