VMware Cloud For AWS: The Tech Groundwork Is Laid, Partners Look At How To Adopt

The new relationship between VMware and Amazon to allow VMware software-defined data center workloads to run natively on Amazon Web Services is unique in how it works for customers, and will be a relationship that will bring new opportunities to channel partners, the two companies said.

VMware and Amazon Web Services Thursday said they have collaborated on a new platform called VMware Cloud on AWS that takes away the binary decision of whether to run a private or a public cloud.

Channel partners of the two companies see it as a move to make sure they have their business planted on both sides of the new relationship.

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

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With VMware Cloud on AWS, customers will be able to run applications across VMware vSphere-based private, public and hybrid cloud environments using their existing VMware software and tools for a full range of storage, database, analytics and other services.

While VMware has partnerships with other public cloud providers including the IBM SoftLayer cloud and the Virtustream offering from parent company Dell EMC, its Amazon relationship goes much deeper, said Mark Lohmeyer, vice president of products for VMware's Cloud Platform Business Unit.

With VMware Cloud on AMS, Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware is delivering and selling the service, Lohmeyer told CRN.

"Customers will be able to purchase the service via their existing VMware relationship, or from channel partners as they get certified," he said. "In the VMware-IBM cloud relationship, the services are delivered and sold by IBM. In that case, customers have a commercial relationship with IBM."

Furthermore, in the VMware-AWS relationship, both companies have invested heavily in integrating the platform, Lohmeyer said. "With the IBM Cloud, it is being delivered as an IBM service," he said.

The new relationship is also different from running VMware on the Dell EMC Virtustream cloud, Lohmeyer said.

"They are different environments depending on customer needs," he said. "Virtustream is optimized for mission-critical applications like SAP. But hundreds of thousands of customers want to run VMware on AWS."

Ariel Kelman, vice president of worldwide marketing for Seattle-based AWS, told CRN that the company expects more and more enterprise applications to move to AWS as a result of the new VMware relationship.

"Customer workloads like SAP and CRM are among the fastest-growing use cases for AWS," Kelman said.

It is important that customers have choice, Lohmeyer said.

"There are a lot of different factors behind the decision to choose a particular cloud," he said. "From a VMware perspective, we enable choice. In come cases, customers will choose Virtustream for some particular optimization. In other cases, they will choose AWS."

Customers have been "banging their fists on the table" for years to have this kind of choice, Kelman said.

"It's because the new relationship is an attractive thing for customers," he said. "Customers don't want to rip out existing investments or buy new hardware. They want a hybrid cloud that uses existing technologies. They want the public part in AWS. They don't want to sacrifice the use of the most popular cloud in the world to do it."

VMware Cloud on AWS will tie VMware-based workloads to a new separate set of EC2 instances designed to give those workloads a bare metal experience, Kelman said. "These EC2 instances will provide users with all the AWS services with low latency," he said. "These special EC2 instances are being designed to run VMware really, really fast."

Those new EC2 instances are important to VMware-based workloads, Lohmeyer said.

"VMware ESXi works best on bare metal," he said. "That gives them the highest performance and availability. Having access to that separate purpose-built infrastructure is key."

Because controlled beta testing won't start until early 2017 and general availability is not expected until the first half of 2017, VMware and AWS are not yet ready to talk about pricing.

However, Lohmeyer said. the pricing model will be similar to how customers currently consume AWS resources.

VMware has started working on a certification process for its channel partners. "Partners will be certified to sell the solution," he said.

The new relationship is one that will bring excitement to the VMware and AWS channels, said Luis Benavides, CEO and founder of Day1 Solutions, a Falls Church, Va.-based solution provider and channel partner of both vendors.

"We love it," Benavides told CRN.

VMware partners have been fortunate that they haven't had to build up AWS capabilities or otherwise have to compete with AWS, Benavides said. "Now they can embrace AWS," he said.

VMware Cloud on AWS will make it easier to adopt VMware on AWS, Benavides said.

"This is especially true for non-AWS-mature partners," he said. "They will be able to bring more of their market to AWS. The first step has been to adopt VMware and some hybrid cloud. The second step is to add native AWS capabilities."

AWS partners, on the other hand, will now have to develop more hybrid cloud skills, Benavides said. "Very few can work in both private and public clouds," he said. "We're one of the few who can. For any partner who can meet the customer in their data center, this new offering only magnifies the need to meet the customer in the cloud."

VMware Cloud on AWS is a big wake-up call for the channel, Benavides said.

"It is forcing the channel's hand," he said. "They have to embrace it. VMware is adopting Amazon. Now the channel has to get on board. Amazon partners have to do more than AWS. They have to meet customers in the data center."

Mike Kavis, principal architect at Cloud Technology Partners, a Boston-based solution provider, said he expects the new relationship to help raise the number of workloads that are candidates for the public cloud.

"At the end of the day, everybody wants to get out of the data center business, but there's so much stuff that keeps you in it," Kavis told CRN.

Kavis said VMware Cloud on AWS could be a response to Microsoft Azure, which already has public and private cloud offerings.

"It's a huge opportunity for Amazon's channel," he said. "Some companies are binary in their thinking. They go private because they can't move stuff. Now you can move a lot more stuff to the public cloud. There's going to be a lot of workloads they weren't making revenue on that they are now going to make revenue on."

The move is also great for VMware. which will have new opportunities to sell vCenter licenses, Kavis said.

Jason Deck, senior vice president of strategy at Logicworks, a New York-based AWS Premier and Managed Services Partner, said VMware is now acknowledging that AWS will continue to be the leading public cloud platform, and that customers need AWS functionality.

"Anything they can do with an alliance to make transitions to the cloud easier for customers will be good," Deck told CRN. "[The new relationship] makes it easier for end users to go through a transformation they all are looking to go through. It lightens the load, and solves a pain point."

JOSEPH TSIDULKO contributed to this story.