Is VMware Building Bridge To Rival Amazon's Cloud?

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At VMware's partner conference last month, CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a private question-and-answer session that his company is developing a way to move workloads back and forth between its vCloud Air public cloud and Amazon Web Services, according to partners who were there.

This would be significant for a number of reasons, but mainly because moving workloads between different clouds is a notoriously slow and tedious process, one that involves converting virtual machines between different formats and accounting for their networking and storage configurations, among other challenges.

VMware has previously warned customers that once they move workloads to AWS, its proprietary APIs and management dependencies make it difficult to move them out. It wasn't long ago that Gelsinger was telling partners that if "a workload goes to Amazon, you lose, and we have lost forever."

AWS doesn't let customers export virtual machines they create on its cloud, only ones they've previously imported, and some VMware partners feel this adds to the challenge of cross-cloud workload portability. Plus, AWS runs on the Xen server hypervisor, which isn't compatible with VMware's ESX hypervisor.

"VMware and AWS hypervisors are black and white, which is why everything that goes into AWS has to be imported and exported," said one solution provider executive who works with both vendors and requested anonymity to protect these relationships. "AWS provides a nice tool to do that, but workloads still aren't portable whatsoever."

Gelsinger didn't explain to partners what VMware is cooking up, but he did say VMware intends to make an announcement in the second calendar quarter that will shed more light on its plans. VMware and AWS spokespeople declined comment.

Building a bridge to AWS would also mark an important shift in VMware's approach to competing in the public cloud market, where it's trailing AWS and everyone else by a wide margin due to its late entry to the space. VMware was also slow to roll out features to vCloud Air that are table stakes in the cloud market, such as pay-as-you-go pricing and letting customers sign up using a credit card.

To pull this off, several VMware partners told CRN they believe the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor will partner closely with -- or acquire -- a firm that specializes in cross-cloud workload migrations.

RiverMeadow, a San Jose, Calif.-based firm that touts its ability to move "large, complex workloads into and between cloud environments" on its website, is one vendor VMware partners are keeping an eye on. RiverMeadow is a VMware partner and does cloud migrations for its customers.

RiverMeadow sells a cloud migration SaaS service that uses a proprietary technology called Secure Direction Migration, which automates the process of moving workloads into and between different cloud platforms behind the firewall, Scott Colgan, vice president of marketing, said in a recent interview.

Colgan said RiverMeadow goes to market exclusively through OEMs and was initially focused on the cloud service provider market, but now includes enterprises and SMBs.

Through its channel partnerships, RiverMeadow has seen a rapid increase in enterprise and SMB companies' cloud migration activity, some of which are looking to migrate workloads out of AWS, Colgan said.

One of RiverMeadow's closest partners is Cisco Systems, Colgan said. RiverMeadow is part of the Cisco Powered public cloud ecosystem, and its technology complements Cisco's Intercloud strategy by allowing workloads to be moved to private clouds, where they can connect to its Intercloud fabric, said Colgan.

Cisco is also a primary investor in RiverMeadow, which has raised $17 million since its founding in 2009.

Colgan wouldn't comment on whether RiverMeadow has been approached by VMware's M&A team, but offered the following statement:

"RiverMeadow is an equity-financed company looking to maximize shareholder value. We believe we have built a high-value solution that represents opportunity for companies looking to build services across clouds or to a given company looking to extend the value of its own cloud."

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