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Microsoft And VMware Close To Revealing Joint Development Of A Hybrid Cloud Solution: Report

Channel partners of both software giants see new opportunities in an alliance that would deliver a fully supported VMware environment in Microsoft's Azure cloud, and a more-competitive hybrid cloud landscape that will drive down prices.

Microsoft and VMware are preparing a groundbreaking partnership that will bring a fully supported version of VMware's virtualized compute infrastructure into the Azure cloud, according to a report in The Information.

Joint development is under way for the hybrid cloud solution—possibly part of a broader partnership between the two software powerhouses that for years have been bitter rivals, according to the technology news publication, which cites seven sources, one with direct knowledge of the project.

Microsoft's efforts to merge the previously uncooperative technologies are being led by Ray Blanchard, once a VMware executive responsible for shepherding the virtualization software developer's alliance with Amazon Web Services. The project could be revealed within weeks, according to The Information's reporting.

[Related: IBM Watson Lands In VMware's Workspace ONE Platform]

For Heraflux, a channel partner of both VMware and Microsoft, such a deal has been long in the waiting, said David Klee, the Lincoln, Nebraska-based solution provider's founder and chief architect.

A Microsoft-VMware partnership would be "fascinating," Klee said, because of the contentious history between the two software giants. And it will create new opportunities for the channel.

"It's big for us because it means competition in that space, which lends to more services for us and more reasons we can steer people in a better direction for their company," Klee said.

"I want competition for public cloud hybrid options for the VMware on-prem stack. It gives the consumer of this, virtualized businesses, more flexibility and choice in the target cloud platform," he told CRN.

While Microsoft once flatly rejected VMware's offer to work together, the competitive landscape has changed since then, and there have been intriguing signs of a softening of that stance in recent years, Klee said.

VMware's deal with Amazon, which yielded VMware Cloud on AWS, a vSphere environment provisioned through the hyper-scale kingpin's cloud, might have changed minds in Redmond, Wash., he added.

Kenneth Ziegler, CEO of Logicworks, a New York City-based partner of both companies, said the AWS alliance likely influenced green-lighting the joint effort as the industry "is in the midst of a cloud arms race."

AWS is being chased by "fast followers" like Microsoft and Google Cloud Platform that are competing to deliver apples-to-apples services offerings, Ziegler told CRN.

"To the extent VMC on AWS gains traction, it would only make sense to have a similar offering on Azure," Ziegler said. "In either case it is a win for the cloud platforms."

Heraflux first became intrigued about the potential for a joint solution when Microsoft released a blog at the end of 2017 that said the cloud giant was planning to ease hosting VMware workloads in Azure.

That solution, not supported by VMware, could offer some customers "an intermediary step to get to the Microsoft cloud," Klee said.

After reading the blog, Klee reached out to Microsoft, but wasn't able to learn more, he said. Since then, VMware virtualization on Azure has quietly been released as a private preview.

Microsoft's initial efforts to lure VMware workloads into Azure mostly involved options for refactoring applications as part of the migration process to use Microsoft's cloud-native services. But another Microsoft blog laying out those migration options described VMware virtualization on Azure as a good choice "for VMware workloads that are initially more challenging to migrate."

"This approach lets you run the full VMware stack on Azure co-located with other Azure services," that blog said, adding the approach will not deliver cost savings or cloud-native agility, but will allow customers to "reuse" their VMware skillsets.

The latest report in The Information suggests that one of the two software giants finally capitulated and decided to go after more market share, Klee said. And, based on how it's described and his own hopes for the service, "the new feature is fantastic."

Competition might even bring down the price for VMware Cloud on AWS, Klee said, which he believes is still the largest barrier to adoption for that hybrid service.

"Re-platforming is tough and having VMware in more than one cloud helps people bridge that gap to cloud in the best possible manner," Klee said.

Neither VMware nor Microsoft chose to comment on the report of their cooperation.

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