VMware To Salespeople: vSphere VMs Running On Microsoft Azure Is A Pipe Dream

VMware has been making noises lately about being cloud-agnostic and working with competitors, but a recent internal communication to its public cloud salespeople makes it clear that this doesn't extend to Microsoft Azure.

As first reported by CRN last week, Microsoft is developing technology that will let VMware-based virtual machines run on its Azure public cloud. Industry sources familiar with the matter told CRN that Microsoft plans to roll this out on Azure in the third calendar quarter of 2015.

VMware's vCloud Air product marketing team, in a document sent to salespeople this week with talking points on how to respond to questions about VMware support on Azure, threw cold water on the idea.

"The ability to easily execute vSphere on Azure is unlikely to be a possibility for most, if not all, customers in production environments in the near future," VMware's vCloud Air team says in the document, which was viewed by CRN.

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[Related: Microsoft To Support VMware Workloads On Azure Public Cloud Starting In Q3 - Sources]

Last week, some sources told CRN they believed it was possible that VMware is working with Microsoft to allow its VMs to run on Azure. But judging from the tone of the VMware document, that doesn't seem to be the case.

In the document, VMware notes that Azure only supports about 10 operating systems, compared to more than 90 for vCloud Air. According to VMware, this means customers could run into problems running vSphere VMs on Microsoft's public cloud.

"It only takes one VM that can’t be run to stop a larger interconnected system of VMs from working when you need to spin everything up in a disaster," VMware says in the document. "This is going to be a problem for many customers, and Azure compatibility will likely only be a viable option for Windows-centric customers."

Microsoft is using technology from its acquisition of cloud storage vendor InMage last July to enable VMware workloads to run on Azure, according to CRN's sources.

VMware's understanding, as outlined in the document, is that Microsoft will use InMage to convert VMware virtual machines to its own Hyper-V format so that they can be moved to Azure. As VMware notes, there are third party VM migration tools on the market that do the same thing.

InMage will also enable Azure Site Recovery, Microsoft's cloud disaster recovery service, "to replicate vSphere VMs to Azure by converting them into Hyper-V VMs on the fly," VMware says in the document.

However, the process of converting VMs from one format to another is "an inexact science, especially for Windows," VMware says in the document.

"It involves 'open heart surgery ' on the VM, injecting new drivers to prevent BSOD or boot failures. Network configuration is also unlikely to survive conversion to Azure, especially as it lacks many of the vSphere networking capabilities," says VMware in the document.

VMware and Microsoft spokespeople declined comment.

NEXT: What This Means For The Microsoft-VMware Relationship

Sources told CRN last week that Microsoft may also be developing nested virtualization -- in which a hypervisor runs inside a VM -- to enable VMware workloads to run on Azure without converting them, which would greatly speed the process of moving them between clouds.

VMware is telling its salespeople to downplay this possibility. "We have seen no evidence that Microsoft is planning to do nested virtualization and run ESX on Azure," VMware says in the document.

Microsoft's Hyper-V doesn't currently support nested virtualization, but sources told CRN last week this will be part of the forthcoming Windows Server vNext release, slated for early 2016.

One VMware partner who has viewed the vCloud Air document told CRN he found it to be "somewhat childish" because it didn't adequately describe the public cloud advantages VMware claims to have over Microsoft.

"VMware is the best out there for virtualization, so I would think that they could hold themselves to a higher standard. Their sales folks simply need a good polishing," said the partner, who requested anonymity to avoid retaliation from the vendor.

Another VMware partner said he believes that eventually, VMware support on competing clouds will be a requirement for customers.

At that point, "the conversation will shift to who can provide the best service, price and value-add to keep customers in their cloud," said the VMware partner, who also requested anonymity.