VMware Execs: We're Not Really Competing Much With Amazon In Cloud

But this week at VMworld, Gelsinger and Eschenbach are acting as if their incendiary words were just routine saber rattling.

In a Q&A Tuesday at VMworld 2013, Gelsinger and Eschenbach were asked about the threat that AWS represents to vCloud Hybrid Service, VMware's public cloud debut, which will hit the market next month.

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Gelsinger said that while Amazon has done a "good job" innovating in the public cloud space, its offerings don't meet the needs of enterprises. In other words, there's nothing to see here, people.

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"Some will say we're competing, and at some level we are. But really, we're not," Gelsinger said of VMware's public cloud rivalry with AWS. "Their focus on customers is really different."

Gelsinger was singing a different tune at VMware's Partner Exchange conference in February, when he suggested that VMware was working on a public cloud alternative to keep customers from drifting to AWS. "We all lose if they end up in these commodity public clouds," he said at the event.

At the same event, Eschenbach jabbed at Amazon -- and became a lightning rod for criticism -- by telling partners "I find it really hard to believe that we cannot collectively beat a company that sells books."

In the VMworld Q&A, Eschenbach said he used the bookseller reference to make the point that VMware has far more experience in the enterprise than Amazon does.

"I said that in a tongue-in-cheek way to draw the point that we have the opportunity going forward, based on our current investments, to extend the software-defined data center into the public cloud," Eschenbach said when asked about his earlier comments.

That said, the threat AWS poses to VMware's business is no joke. Amazon is going hard after corporate workloads, and many SaaS vendors are running on AWS. And earlier this year, Amazon beat out IBM for a 10-year, $600 million cloud computing contract with the CIA, a deal that could potentially open up doors with other government agencies and large enterprises.

VMware, for its part, doesn't seem concerned about the inroads AWS is making with large public cloud customers.

Amazon started building its public cloud 10 years ago and has "done a nice job scaling it," but VMware's huge footprint in the data center is a big-time advantage, Eschenbach said in the Q&A.

"We're in the very early innings of this baseball game. A small fraction of workloads are running in the public cloud, and there will be significantly more running in the private cloud than the public cloud," Eschenbach said.