VMware Partners Still Expecting Big Changes Ahead For vCloud Air Hybrid Cloud

VMware put its vCloud Air public cloud front and center at its VMworld this week, touting a slew of new technology and services and insisting that the pendulum of customer interest is now swinging its way.

Bill Fathers, VMware's executive vice president and general manager of cloud services, told VMworld attendees that the combination of vCloud Air and NSX software-defined networking handles tough technical challenges better than any other hybrid cloud offering on the market.

"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 during his VMworld keynote.

[Related: VMware Says Its Hybrid Cloud Solves Tough Tech Challenges Better Than Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure]

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Yet in the wake of VMware's biggest customer event of the year, more than a half dozen partners told CRN that they're still expecting big changes ahead for vCloud Air. CRN reported last week that VMware has either stopped development on vCloud Air or will soon do so, including work on additional features.

Although hybrid cloud remains a huge part of VMware's strategy, the VMware partners said they're expecting EMC to combine vCloud Air with its Virtustream cloud business in a new company under the EMC Federation. EMC closed its $1.2 billion acquisition of Virtustream in July.

EMC has mounted an $850 million cost-cutting program aimed at better alignment between EMC and its federation of companies, which includes EMC Information Infrastructure, VMware, RSA, VCE and Pivotal.

One partner who works with EMC and VMware told CRN he sees such a union of cloud technologies as a way for EMC to cut costs and potentially jump-start VMware's hybrid cloud offering.

"Why would EMC spend $1.2 billion on Virtustream and maintain parallel development [with vCloud Air]?" said the partner, who didn't want to be named in order to protect his relationship with the vendors.

Spokesmen from VMware and EMC declined comment.

CRN's sources all said they're expecting VMware to continue building its hybrid cloud business, just not under the vCloud Air brand. One of the big highlights at VMworld came when executives gave a live demo showing how VMware's vMotion technology can move a running VM from a private cloud to vCloud Air.

VMware also 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.

Eric Hartley, president of Bluetowne, a Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based VMware vCloud Air Network partner, sees these sorts of hybrid cloud services as a competitive differentiator.

"AWS and Azure are clearly platform services, while vCloud Air has mostly been about infrastructure," Hartley said. "However, the VMware install-based out there is huge, and so naturally, making vCloud Air more of a full platform with expansive storage provides a very well-defined, plug-n-play solution for existing VMware shops."

Gordon Martin, president of PeakUpTime, a Tulsa, Okla.-based VMware partner, said he thinks the vCloud Air improvements will help boost traction with enterprise customers and put VMware on more equal footing with Microsoft Azure in the public cloud market.