VMware: Our Hybrid Cloud Solves Tough Tech Challenges Better Than Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure

VMware may be trailing Amazon Web Services and Microsoft in the public cloud market, but the vendor says its hybrid cloud offering can solve customers' tough technical challenges better than anyone else.

Now that NSX software-defined networking is part of the vCloud Air public cloud, Palo Alto-based VMware is increasingly competing head to head with AWS and Microsoft, Bill Fathers, executive vice president and general manager of cloud services, said in a keynote Monday at the opening of VMware's annual VMworld conference in San Francisco.

Fathers said VMware's view of hybrid cloud is much more than just connecting a Software-as-a-Service app to an on-premise environment. Customers, he said, are using vCloud Air and NSX to handle disaster recovery, application scaling and the deployment of mobile apps, and they're coming away impressed.

[Related: Sources: VMware Cutting Back On vCloud Air Development, May Stop Work On New Features]

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"We're just starting to see a large volume of customers serious enough that they're now embracing public cloud, scaling of apps and mobile app deployment. That's where our hybrid approach is starting to differentiate us," said Fathers in the keynote.

El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV, a VMware customer since 2008, uses VMware server virtualization and NSX in its hybrid cloud. Mike Benson, executive vice president and CIO at DirecTV, said VMware technology has helped his company deal with spikes in demand that occur during major sporting events, like the beginning of the NFL season.

Fathers said app scaling is important for any company that does business online. "Latency kills revenue -- it doesn't matter what business you're in," he said.

Deploying mobile apps can be difficult because apps running in the public cloud often need to link back to on-premise data stores. With NSX, VMware has technology that's tailor-made for these kinds of hybrid apps, Fathers said.

"VMware is well ahead of the curve in the tough challenge of hybrid apps," he said.

Yanbing Li, vice president and general manager of storage and availability at VMware, and Raghu Raghuram, executive vice president and general manager of VMware's Software-Defined Data Center division, gave a live demo showing how VMware's vMotion technology can move a running VM from a private cloud to vCloud Air.

This feature is in technical preview right now, and it includes hybrid networking capabilities, said the executives. Judging from the positive -- and somewhat surprised -- reaction among the 23,000 VMworld attendees who witnessed it live, cross-cloud vMotion is a welcome addition.

Phillip Walker, CEO of Network Solutions Provider, a VMware partner in El Segundo, Calif., said he's been impressed with VMware's hybrid cloud push and is currently looking at shifting his company's Infrastructure-as-a-Service strategy to include more VMware and vCloud Air.

"I believe they have something different -- and something better -- as of now. I think many will embrace vCloud Air over Azure and AWS," Walker told CRN. "They just need a hardware partner."

Meanwhile, VMware launched several new vCloud Air services at VMworld, including an SQL Database-as-a-Service. There are two new integrated object storage offerings, one based on Google technology and the other of which uses EMC's ViPR technology.

VMware is also offering a pay-as-you-go pricing option for its vCloud Air disaster recovery customers, along with Site Recovery Manager Air, a new SaaS offering that lets customers manage the recovery of multi-VM apps running on vCloud Air.

VMware hasn't shared sales figures for vCloud Air, which launched in May 2013, and some partners have told CRN they're unimpressed with both the feature set and costs of VMware's public cloud. Last week, multiple sources told CRN that VMware is cutting back on vCloud Air development and may soon stop adding new features.

Yet at VMworld, VMware's message is that hybrid cloud means something specific to VMware customers and will, over time, lead to all-important differentiation in the marketplace.

VMware is telling service providers they will see benefits if they upgrade to its latest update to vCloud Director, VMware's software for managing and orchestrating cloud infrastructure. These benefits, Fathers said, include being able to do hybrid networking between private and public clouds.

"We're thoroughly differentiated in strategy. We said we would distribute IP to partners, and we've done it, and partners are embracing it," Fathers said.