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Dell Chaperones Broad VMware-Microsoft Alliance In The Cloud

After years of acrimony, the two IT giants are preparing to introduce Azure VMware Solutions, a native, fully supported VMware environment in Azure, as well as integrated Desktop-as-a-Service and device management capabilities.

The long-awaited VMware-Microsoft cloud alliance became official Monday as the two enterprise technology giants unveiled the contours of a joint solution that will natively bring VMware environments into the Azure cloud.

While the hybrid cloud offering unveiled at the Dell World conference in Las Vegas had been expected, the comprehensive road map for releasing integrated cloud services still stirred excitement in both Microsoft and VMware channels.

"As we were planning this, there was lots of demand for this. It's great to see this solution now coming to market this year," said Michael Dell, CEO of VMware parent Dell Technologies, in his keynote at Dell World.

[Related: ‘Powerful’ VMware Cloud On Dell EMC Data Center-as-a-Service Launched]

Azure VMware Solutions, the service to hit market later this year, will immediately compete with VMware Cloud on AWS, the groundbreaking partnership between the virtualization leader and the only provider that eclipses Microsoft's share of the public cloud market.

Development and support for VMware environments in Azure, which once was anathema to VMware's cloud strategy, is a component of a broader set of integrated products also touching device management and Desktop as a Service.

Azure VMware Solutions will incorporate all technologies encapsulated by VMware Cloud Foundation—vSphere compute virtualization, NSX networking and vSAN storage—to deliver native, supported and certified VMware infrastructure on Microsoft Azure.

The hybrid service was developed in conjunction with CloudSimple, a startup that has worked for more than two years developing the capability to run VMware's data center stack in dedicated Azure cloud instances. Virtustream, a cloud provider under the roof of Dell Technologies, also contributed to the development effort.

"We put customers at the center of everything we do," Dell said in his keynote. "We hear you. You want choice and flexibility. You want multi-cloud made easy. As you can see, we're innovating a whole new level of cloud-agnostic interoperability for your workloads."

Because the service integrates with native Azure services, it will simplify the process of adding capabilities like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things into VMware-based applications.

"It's a new level of automation and simplicity that can unlock the power of your data and drive your business into the future," Dell said.

Only a few years ago, Microsoft attempted to realize the VMware on Azure vision with the launch of Azure Migrate Tools—only to be stymied by substantial pushback from the private cloud kingpin.

That repudiation of a joint environment "immediately meant that traditional VMware shops were less likely to migrate to Azure, despite the many benefits," said Reed Wiedower, CTO of New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner.

"It's good to see both sides of the coin working more productively together," Wiedower told CRN. That's a sign of maturity, he added, and great news for customers and partners.

For the many enterprises running vSphere in their private data centers, Azure VMware Solutions will ease the transition to a hybrid environment, Matt Alofs, New Signature's infrastructure practice group lead, told CRN.

"If they can use those same tools to manage virtual machines in Azure, that's one less thing that they have to figure out as they adopt public cloud, which should accelerate adoption of public cloud," Alofs said.

But there's still much to be seen about how the economics work out, and how seamlessly workloads can move from on-premises to Azure with the new offering, he noted.

Other solutions to stem from the partnership include a jointly developed integration between Microsoft 365, which incorporates the market-leading Office 365 cloud-based office productivity suite, and VMware's Workspace ONE device management platform. That product will allow management of Office 365 across devices using Microsoft Intune and Azure Active Directory.

VMware also plans to extend the capabilities of Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop by enabling VMware Horizon Cloud, a DaaS solution, to run on Azure.

"Together with Dell Technologies and VMware, we are providing our mutual customers with an integrated cloud experience and digital workplace solutions to open up new opportunities and meet their evolving needs," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a prepared statement.

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, also in a prepared statement, said customers want to see his company expand its collaboration with Microsoft.

"These innovative cloud and client offerings will deliver customers even more value, provide more flexibility to accelerate their hybrid multi-cloud and multi-device journey, and accelerate the digital transformation of their business," Gelsinger said.

David Klee, founder and chief architect at Heraflux Technologies, a Lincoln, Nebraska-based VMware partner, said that “it looks like the pricing is much better than the Amazon solution, as it looks as if there is no required minimum number of hosts.”

Because the documentation so-far revealed lists a starting point of only a single host, the VMware solution on Azure will have a minimum requirement just under $40,000 at reserved retail pricing, compared to a one-year reserved configuration for VMware Cloud on AWS that costs about $207,000 for the minimum of four hosts.

“I really appreciate the flexibility on the minimums, as this makes it a lot more viable for the smaller organization, especially from a DR planning scenario,” Klee said. “Replicate the on-prem VMs to the cloud, and if an emergency arises, provision one or two hosts, whatever is the minimum to run, and restore the VMs into this new platform for temporary purposes while the primary datacenter is rebuilt.”

That option addresses Heraflux’ primary challenge with using the AWS solution—the financial point of entry.

“I’m very happy to see competition in this space, and hopefully the competition will drive feature sets up and prices downward,” Klee said.

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