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VMware Everywhere—But AWS Still Key

VMware Cloud was once synonymous with Amazon Web Services. Now ‘multi-cloud’ is a better expression of the VMware Hybrid Cloud strategy, but the groundbreaking relationship with the public cloud leader remains a critical component

As VMware rolled out a comprehensive hybrid cloud strategy this week at VMworld 2019, messaging around specific cloud partnerships, particularly Amazon Web Services, took a back seat.

Since the on-premises virtualization leader's first foray into the public cloud in 2017 (not counting the defunct vCloud Air), VMware Cloud has almost been synonymous with AWS, said Venu Thomas, CTO of New York-based Presidio, a powerhouse partner in VMware's channel.

By all accounts, that relationship is still advancing full throttle. But at the conference that just wrapped up in San Francisco, unlike in each of the two years prior, there weren't many direct mentions in general sessions about the co-engineered AWS solution or, for that matter, more recent hyper-scale partners Microsoft and Google.

[Related: VMware CEO Gelsinger Interrupts VMworld Demo, Announces CTO Swap]

Instead, “multi-cloud” was the catch-all for those relationships, and VMware Hybrid Cloud Platform a new offering hyped for its agnosticism in extending VMware technology across all modern infrastructure.

"They've taken all these different products that they've had, and they've bundled them into this product called the Hybrid Cloud Platform," Thomas told CRN.

That next level of maturity in the company's hybrid ambitions, realized by also working with Microsoft, Google and IBM, as well as parent Dell Technologies, delivers unprecedented cross-cloud mobility by eliminating the application refactoring process.

"We have a lot of customers refactoring their workloads either back to on-prem or to another cloud," Thomas said. "And I think that’s why they don’t want to talk too much about AWS—because they might be pulling workloads off of AWS."

While the partnership with Amazon broke new ground, VMware has taken major strides in the years since in natively integrating vSphere across multiple cloud giants, and now has fully embraced containers and Kubernetes through its Tanzu initiative to deliver multi-cloud portability.

The accompanying shift in messaging, however, shouldn't be interpreted as a de-emphasis of VMware Cloud on AWS, as evidenced by almost 200 breakout sessions throughout the week focused on every facet of implementing the joint technology, Paul Delory, research director for data center and cloud operations at Gartner, told CRN.

"It’s only natural that they’d tell the hybrid cloud/multi-cloud story, rather than focusing on one cloud in particular," Delory said.

But the Amazon alliance remains central to VMware's hybrid strategy—featured in more breakout sessions than Kubernetes and often coming up in conversations with VMware executives and product managers, Delory said.

"AWS is our strategic and preferred partner in cloud," VMware spokesperson Michael Thacker told CRN, noting the joint service is succeeding in the market and now available in 16 AWS regions around the world.

Instead of focusing on VMware Cloud on AWS at VMworld, "VMware highlighted VMware Cloud itself and the appeal of having a uniform, consistent platform that has the added benefit of portability to different public cloud providers," Hetal Patel, senior VMware technical lead for New Jersey-based Effectual, told CRN.

But the joint AWS-VMware solution provider still sees AWS as the flagship component of that offering.

"VMware Cloud on AWS is VMware's most-holistic cloud solution that has the potential to use adjacent AWS core services," Patel said. "Azure, and Google are just beginning to take advantage of the lessons learned from VMware and AWS engineering efforts."

As compute matures, and VMware further adopts containerization, VMware wisely evolved its strategy to offer greater workload mobility, he told CRN.

"Offering VMware Cloud on multiple platforms addresses the diversity of services that are spread across multiple public cloud providers," Patel said.

With VMware Hybrid Cloud Platform, VMware has positioned Cloud Foundation as its enterprise, multi-cloud operating system, said Presidio's Thomas.

"The biggest takeaway is that VMware is coming up with a unified platform that stretches across operating systems, applications, monitoring and analytics and security," Thomas said, "And that's what this whole hybrid cloud platform is."

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