As an attendee at VMworld events for about half a decade, this one provided the clearest message I’ve yet heard from VMware.
That’s because, in its explanation of its Cross Cloud strategy and announcement of a product set – Cross Cloud Services – lie its intentions to try to virtualise the hybrid cloud.
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This will see the private datacentre and public cloud connected by a layer of abstraction that can allow on-premises VMware operations and those in the public clouds of cloud providers (with four on board for the mid-2017 launch) to be managed as one.
The reason that probably comes across as clearer and bolder than anything VMware has announced for a long time at the level of grand strategy is that these amount a restatement of its original raison d’etre but at a more extensive level.
Back in the mists of time around the turn of the millennium VMware’s basic proposition was a new and revolutionary one. It offered server virtualization, ie a layer of abstraction for hitherto siloed servers that could end poor rates of utilisation and difficult management in one fell swoop.
Now the company plans to help customers pour a layer of abstraction over the largely discrete environments of private datacentre and the public cloud.
What are we to make of it in broad terms?
Firstly, this is an astute response to the rise of the cloud that addresses a customer need. Managing on- and off-premises operations as if they are part of a single whole is clearly desirable.
Secondly, it is a recognition that while the cloud is an inexorably rising feature in our IT landscape it also seems quite clear that the limitations of the public cloud as they currently exist – the extent of customer trust and questions of availability/latency – mean the future is hybrid for a couple of decades at least (see VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger’s predictions at VMworld).
Thirdly, it is, leaving aside any question of intent, an extension of VMware’s tentacles into the cloud. Having made itself almost indispensable – other virtualisation hypervisors are available*, the rapidly-spoken reminder at the end of the advert might say – in the datacentre, the company is now set on making itself so in a world in which the IT department must look outwards towards the cloud.
We will have to wait and see if VMware can play the same role in hybrid cloud as it has done in the datacentre.
* See this Jan 2016 survey by Atlantis for a breakdown of hypervisor share.