vCloud Where? VMware Forms New Hybrid Cloud Alliance With IBM SoftLayer

VMware and IBM unveiled a strategic partnership Monday that lets customers migrate workloads back and forth between VMware-based private clouds and the IBM SoftLayer public cloud.

In the VMware channel, some partners see the IBM tie-up as a sign that VMware is de-emphasizing its vCloud Air service and will instead look to build its hybrid cloud business by partnering with more established cloud players.

Under the partnership, organizations running VMware-based private clouds won't have to modify workloads in order to run them to the IBM SoftLayer public cloud.

[Related: After Extended Period Of Turmoil, Can VMware Right The Ship With vCloud Air?]

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This capability -- one of the main selling points for vCloud Air -- lets customers skip the time-consuming process of converting workloads from one format to another when migrating workloads.

Carl Eschenbach, VMware's president and chief operating officer, described the IBM alliance as a "new" strategic partnership that will help the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor accelerate its hybrid cloud business.

"IBM is seeing high demand for existing VMware customers that want to deploy workloads on top of the IBM [SoftLayer] cloud," Eschenbach told CRN.

VMware actually has a 14-year-old partnership with IBM, but much of it has been centered around IBM's System x server business, which Lenovo acquired in October 2014.

Now, IBM will be using VMware's entire software-defined data center stack -- which includes vCloud Suite, NSX software-defined networking and VSAN storage virtualization -- on top of a bare metal offering on SoftLayer, according to Eschenbach.

Mark Wyllie, CEO of Flagship Solutions Group, an IBM partner in Boca Raton, Fla., told CRN he's seeing high demand for hybrid cloud services within his customer base. He said he believes the VMware partnership "will open up huge market" for IBM's SoftLayer cloud business.

Eric Roch, principal architect and practice director for IT modernization at Perficient, a St. Louis-based IBM partner, said being able to move virtual machines between on-premise and off-premise environments will speed hybrid cloud adoption. "This is a positive development for both parties," he said.

Kevin Goodman, managing director at BlueBridge Networks, a Cleveland-based partner of both vendors, said he thinks VMware will benefit from IBM's data center reach, which includes 45 locations around the world, and by gaining access to IBM's customer base.

"The IBM and VMware partnership is another way for these two offerings to compete for market share and customer retention," said Goodman.

Although VMware has said it intends to continue operating vCloud Air, the vendor laid off a large portion of staff last month and said it won't be making additional investment in building out the service. CRN reported last September that VMware was planning to stop development of new features, and since then, several top ranking executives for the service have left the company.

"VMware continues to own and operate VMware vCloud Air with a narrower and more specific focus to provide customers with specialized services, unique to VMware and distinct from other public cloud providers," a VMware spokesman said in an emailed statement in response to CRN's questions about the service's future.