VMware Trades Anti-Amazon Rhetoric For Visions Of Hybrid Cloud Bonanza

Last year at VMware's Partner Exchange conference, CEO Pat Gelsinger and COO and Co-President Carl Eschenbach urged partners not to let Amazon Web Services horn in on VMware's enterprise data center turf. And there were dire warnings about the consequences of partners letting their customers drift to AWS.

But this year's conference was very different. VMware executives uttered nary a peep about AWS, at least not in the conference keynotes and small number of break-out sessions that media members were permitted to attend.

While AWS is still a major threat, VMware is now busily honing its marketing message for technologies such as VSAN storage and NSX network virtualization, which it plans to use to outflank AWS and other cloud rivals. Instead of lashing out at AWS, VMware is now acting like the whole fire-and-brimstone thing never happened.

[Related: VMware Partners: Google's Enterprise Ambitions Shine Through In Chromebook Partnership ]

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"We do consider Amazon as a competitor for public cloud services. But I think we have a different approach," Eschenbach said in an interview last week at Partner Exchange.

VMware is focused on hybrid cloud, in which enterprises can use a mix of private cloud and public cloud resources, Eschenbach told CRN. While he didn't say AWS lacks a private cloud aspect, this is certainly an area that VMware has zeroed in on as a differentiator, not to mention other cloud vendors searching for cracks in the AWS armor.

While AWS is still VMware's biggest threat in the public cloud, VMware, Palo Alto, Calif., is now trying to surround its rival with VSAN, NSX and end-user computing technologies. It's also talking about the "software-defined data center," its term for a future in which networks and storage are virtualized in the same way servers have been for years, with benefits of greater speed, efficiency and cost savings.

"VMware executives felt there was no need to mention AWS," the CEO for one national VMware partner told CRN, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his other vendor partnerships. "Why would you talk about what you're fighting against when you have all this new technology?"

AWS executives often claim the public cloud eventually will win out over private and hybrid clouds, and the Seattle-based vendor also offers ultrasecure options for enterprises spooked about putting critical data on shared infrastructure.

AWS has an answer for some of what VMware is doing, but VMware feels that enterprises will be more trusting of its public cloud. And while AWS doesn't sell a commercial private cloud, its 10-year cloud contract with the CIA sounds like the kind of arrangement that could appeal to other large enterprises.

Rob Germain, vice president of engineering at Hub Technical Services, a South Easton, Mass.-based VMware partner, was surprised that AWS didn't get much attention at Partner Exchange.

Germain thinks VMware's hybrid cloud strategy will only yield short-term benefits because AWS eventually will become the de facto standard for enterprise clouds. "There are going to be a lot of hurdles to enterprises going to the public cloud, but AWS is eventually going to put all the pieces together to make it work," he told CRN.