Quo vadis VMware vCloud Hybrid Service? What to expect from vCHS?

In May of this year, with the vCloud hybrid service (vCHS) VMware presented its first infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering in a private beta. The infrastructure service is fully managed by VMware and is based on VMware vSphere. Companies that already have virtualized their own on-premise infrastructure with VMware, are to be given the opportunity to seamlessly expand their data center resources such as applications and processes to the cloud, to span a hybrid cloud. As part of the VMworld 2013 Europe in Barcelona in October, VMware has announced the availability of the vCHS in England with a new data center facility in Slough near London. The private beta of the European vCloud hybrid service will be available from the fourth quarter of 2013, with general availability planned for the first quarter of 2014. This step shows that VMware ascribes the public cloud an important role, but was especially made ​​to meet the needs of European customers.

Be softly with gleeful expectations?

During the press conference at VMworld in Barcelona VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger made ​​the glad announcement that instead of the expected 50 registrations even 100 participants have registered for the test of vCHS private beta. After all, this is an improvement over the expectations by 100 percent. However, 100 test customers cannot be a success for a vendor like VMware. Just take a look on the broad customer base and the effectiveness of their sales.

It is therefore necessary to ask the question how attractive a VMware IaaS offering actually can be and how attractive VMware technology, most notably VMware’s in the enterprise widespread hypervisor, will be in the future. Discussions with IT leaders arise more frequently that VMware’s hypervisor for cost reasons and sense of independence (lock-in) should be superseded by an open source hypervisor like KVM in short to medium term.

Challenges: Amazon Web Services and the partner network

With vCHS VMware is positioning itself exactly as about 95 percent of all vendors in the IaaS market: With compute power and storage. A service portfolio is not available. However, VMware sees the Amazon Web Services (AWS) as a main goal and primary competitor when it comes to attract customers.

However, AWS customers – also enterprise customers – use more than just the infrastructure. Every time I talk to AWS customers, I ask my standard question: “How many infrastructure-related AWS services do you use?” If I sum up all previous answers together, I come to an average of eleven to twelve services that an AWS customer is using. Most say that they would use as many services as necessary in order to have as little effort as possible. A key experience was a customer who, without hesitation and with wide eyes, said he is using 99 percent of all the services.

AWS is a popular and particularly attractive target. With the view on AWS only, VMware should be careful and not lose its network of partners and in particular lose the sight of the service provider that have built their infrastructures with VMware technology, including CSC, Dimension Data, Savvis, Tier 3, Verizon or Virtustream.

From first service providers there are already comments, to turn one’s back on VMware and support other hypervisors such as Microsoft Hyper-V. VMware sees these discussions so far relaxed as vCHS is intended purely for standardized workloads and VMware-powered service provider should take care of the specific customer needs.

Quo vadis vCloud Hybrid Service?

Because of its technology, which is used in a variety of cloud service providers, VMware operates passive for some time in the IaaS environment. However, the still in the beta vCloud hybrid Service is in direct competition to this partner network, so it will come to the question of trust between the two sides.

This is particularly due to the fact that vCHS offers more functionality than the typical vCloud Datacenter Service. This includes, among other things, the new vCloud hybrid service online marketplace, with which the user in accordance to VMware have access to more than 3,800 applications and services, which they can use in conjunction with vCHS.

VMware’s strategy consists primarily to build a seamless technical bridge between local VMware installations and vCHS – including the ability to transfer existing standard workloads between the own data center and vCHS. How much success VMware will have with this strategy needs to be seen.

One result of our exploration of the European cloud market has shown that most European companies like the properties of the cloud – flexible use, pay-per-use and scalability – but rather passed the construction and operation of their applications and systems to the provider (as a managed or hosted service).

These are good conditions for all service providers who have built their infrastructure based on VMware technology, but help customers with professional services on the way to the cloud. However, these are not the best conditions for VMware vCHS since vCHS will only support self-service and standard workloads.

As is typical for U.S. companies, VMware launched its European vCHS in England. The company has already announced plans to be active in other countries within Europe. The European commitment has mainly the background to appease the concerns of Europeans and to respond to their specific needs. Here VMware’s EMEA strategy envisages the points data locality, sovereignty, trust, security, compliance and governance. I do not want to appear too critical, but here the name is interchangeable: All cloud providers advertise with the same requirements.

Basically it can be said that the vCloud hybrid service in combination with the rest of VMware’s portfolio has a good chance to play a leading role in the IaaS market. This is mainly due to the broad customer base, a strong ecosystem and the many years of experience with enterprise customers.

According to VMware figures more than 500,000 customers including 100 percent of the Fortune 500, 100 percent of the Fortune Global 100 and 95 percent of the 100 DAX companies using VMware technology. Furthermore, more than 80 percent of virtualized workloads and a large number of mission-critical applications running on VMware.

This means that the transition to a VMware-based hybrid cloud is not an unusual step to scale without great expense. Furthermore, VMware like no other virtualization or cloud provider have a very large ecosystem of partners, resellers, consultants, trainers and distribution channels. With this ecosystem VMware has a great advantage over its competitors in the IaaS and generally in the cloud computing environment.

The situation is similar in the technical attractiveness. Organizationally VMware does not set on a typical public cloud environment, but either provides a physically isolated dedicated cloud per customer or a virtual private cloud. The dedicated cloud provides much more power than the virtual private cloud and provides the customers a physically separated pool of vCPUs and vRAM. The storage and network are logically isolated between the client. The virtual private cloud provides customers with the same design architecture of the dedicated cloud with resources, but these are only logical and not be physically separated.

With vCHS existing VMware infrastructures can comfortable be spanned to a hybrid cloud to move resources back and forth as needed. In addition, a company can thus build test and development or disaster recovery environments. However, this is for what a number of VMware service providers stand by, which could be the biggest challenge for both sides.

By Rene Buest

Rene Buest is Gartner Analyst covering Infrastructure Services & Digital Operations. Prior to that he was Director of Technology Research at Arago, Senior Analyst and Cloud Practice Lead at Crisp Research, Principal Analyst at New Age Disruption and member of the worldwide Gigaom Research Analyst Network. Rene is considered as top cloud computing analyst in Germany and one of the worldwide top analysts in this area. In addition, he is one of the world’s top cloud computing influencers and belongs to the top 100 cloud computing experts on Twitter and Google+. Since the mid-90s he is focused on the strategic use of information technology in businesses and the IT impact on our society as well as disruptive technologies.

Rene Buest is the author of numerous professional technology articles. He regularly writes for well-known IT publications like Computerwoche, CIO Magazin, LANline as well as and is cited in German and international media – including New York Times, Forbes Magazin, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Computerwoche, CIO, Manager Magazin and Harvard Business Manager. Furthermore Rene Buest is speaker and participant of experts rounds. He is founder of and writes about cloud computing, IT infrastructure, technologies, management and strategies. He holds a diploma in computer engineering from the Hochschule Bremen (Dipl.-Informatiker (FH)) as well as a M.Sc. in IT-Management and Information Systems from the FHDW Paderborn.