Partners On VMware Cloud For AWS: The Devil Will Be In The Details

The first thing Andy Jassy, senior vice president for Amazon Web Services, said to VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger when they took a stage together at a joint event in San Francisco on Thursday afternoon: "It's funny to see you here."

But given an enterprise IT landscape characterized by hybrid cloud deployments, perhaps it's not so funny at all: customers are increasingly urging the dominant public and private cloud vendors to collaborate.

"This is an acknowledgement the largest private cloud virtualization company has to play nicely with the largest public cloud company, because the more they are at loggerheads, it’s the customers that are suffering and getting frustrated," Jason Deck, senior vice president of strategy Logicworks, a large implementation partner of both AWS and VMware, told CRN.

[Related: It's Official: VMware, AWS Announce Public-Private Cloud Partnership]

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"I think it was inevitable. I think it's probably overdue," Deck said of the effort between the vendors to develop VMware Cloud on AWS—a product that will extend VMware's private cloud technology across Amazon's public cloud infrastructure.

Both Jassy and Gelsinger acknowledged that reality in announcing their earth-shifting pact—one that's of strategic importance for both businesses.

Amazon has customers confused about their hybrid options, Jassy said. Many are worried they have to make a binary decision between keeping their on-premises infrastructure or adopting AWS.

The product, slated for a mid-2017 release, will alleviate those concerns by enabling customers to quickly deploy virtual machines on AWS that stretch VMware environments into the cloud and are managed by the same VMware tools.

But cloud-focused solution providers told CRN the devil would truly be in the details that reveal themselves when the product is put in the hands of partners.

While the joint-effort directly addresses a very real pain point for their enterprise customers, those partners said, there's still a lot to learn about pricing and the technical capabilities of the integrated offering.

"It’s a pretty powerful message if it works as advertised," Mike Kavis, principal architect at Cloud Technology Partners, told CRN. "Everyone wants to move workloads to the cloud, but a lot of the older legacy apps just don’t play well in the cloud environment."

Amazon made a customer-driven decision, Kavis said, recognizing they could deliver to customers more value by giving them "a clean hybrid."

An effective VMware integration would certainly increase the number of workloads that run well in a public cloud environment without requiring a painstaking refactoring operation, he said.

But there have been past efforts, especially by VMware, to introduce products delivering on that promise, Jeff Aden, executive vice president of 2nd Watch, told CRN. That's why the AWS Premier Partner, one of the largest in the Amazon ecosystem, is cautiously waiting to evaluate the delivered product.

"There's definitely need when migrating customers to AWS for a more seamless integration with VMware," Aden said. "It sounds interesting on paper. How it actually works and runs is yet to be seen."

Based on five years of experience with products like the vCloud Automation Center, later rebranded as vRealize, 2nd Watch is all too aware that managing AWS resources and services through VMware tools presents technical challenges not easily overcome.

That VMware Cloud on AWS is jointly architected between the two vendors is a positive sign, however, that the new solution will succeed where others have fallen short, he said.

Pricing is another make-or-break factor that Aden said he's not sure VMware has "gotten their mind around yet."

Other software vendors have launched offerings built atop AWS, only to find that as customers scaled the solution, it became price-prohibitive, Aden told CRN.

"There's always going to be alternatives so it has to be priced carefully so it makes good economic sense," Deck, of Logicworks, told CRN.

Logicworks, like 2nd Watch and CTP, needs to get its hands on the product and put it through its paces before the solution provider can render any serious judgment on its potential in the market.

"Right now, I think we'll have to see what this really looks like when they bring this to market next year," he told CRN. "In principle, it's certainly a good idea. I'm optimistic"

CTP just helped a financial services customer move several legacy apps to Amazon's cloud from a VMware environment, Kavis told CRN.

That engagement might have been a lot easier had VMware Cloud on AWS existed.

After arguing for years that the days of the private cloud—and solutions like those offered by VMware—were numbered, Amazon has "come to the conclusion there's just stuff that's never going to move to the public cloud easily," Kavis told CRN.