VMware launches vCloud Hybrid Service to channel

After a lengthy beta process, VMware has formally launched its vCloud Hybrid Service in the UK and hailed it as a game-changing move for channel partners

VMware has formally launched its vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) in the UK, with the vendor and key partners hailing the launch as a game changer for cloud services provision.

Constructed on vSphere, vCHS allows customers to extend applications, networking, management, operations and tools over on- and off-premise environments, managed and automated from the vSphere console, vCloud Automation Center, vCloud Application Director and their own tools via the vCloud API.

It will be provisioned at first through a Slough-based facility offering a fully-redundant VM service based on vSphere vMotion, enterprise-class storage and full network virtualisation at no extra cost.

Speaking at a launch event in London, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said: “Hybrid cloud is, in many respects, I think the most important part of our strategy.”

VMware vice president and general manager of hybrid cloud, Bill Fathers, said vCHS was formulated based on customer feedback that suggested third party clouds were proprietary, hard to migrate into and disengage from, and eroded customer investments in skills and technology.

He described a number of areas where VMware partners and customers had already established use cases, including testing and development, packaged applications, disaster recovery, new enterprise application development, and next-generation application provision.

Mick Briggs, head of infrastructure at Cancer Research UK, said he had been trying to pare back the charity’s reliance on legacy IT infrastructure, and had needed a service that he could “just plug into”.

“Our beta experience was, we plugged it in and it worked. It has answered the question of what hybrid cloud could be,” said Briggs. “The experience of vCHS is to extend on-premise using off-premise.”

vCHS a “shot in the arm” for partner cloud strategies

The extension of vCHS into EMEA was announced at VMworld Europe 2013 in Barcelona, and at the time VMware took some flak over whether or not it was setting itself up as a service provider in opposition to its channel.

However, with assurances in place that vCHS will be exclusively available through the channel, key UK partners including Arrow, Computacenter, Insight, Kelway, Phoenix Software and Softcat have already been testing out the service on VMware’s beta programme, and lining up customers as well.

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Paul Casey, cloud, virtualisation and automation lead at Computacenter, which was a key partner in the development of the service, described vCHS as a “shot in the arm” for his strategy and a validation of how Computacenter had thought the cloud market would develop.

“While everyone else went off and built their own cloud offering, we knew something like this would come along,” he said. “Brokering services from multiple vendors has always been part of our strategy – our role is not down in the weeds – so this is a validation of what we think the market needs.”

Softcat solutions director Sam Routledge suggested that vCHS could be positioned as an extension to a partner’s own cloud investment, saying it would make no sense for Softcat to throw away the investment it has made in that area.

“In the same way that you can’t just flog servers or licences, you need some form of differentiation on services,” he said. “I think actually service providers are very interested in this because their value isn’t in running infrastructure, it’s running what sits on top.

“There will always be customers who want to physically visit their kit or own their own arrays, but if the provider can burst out onto vCHS as well, it becomes another important tool in their armoury,” explained Routledge. “For channel partners to have a proposition that they can just turn on is really powerful. Raw infrastructure-as-a-service may well become a commodity so it makes sense to procure it from a large enough vendor.

“It enables us to concentrate less on running the infrastructure and more on running the managed services that customers want to consume,” he concluded.

Taking back the cloud

VMware UK channel head Ed Dolman said that in his view there was no question that vCHS would return certain measure of confidence to partners who may have questioned their continuing relevancy in the face of the relentless growth of cloud computing.

“vCHS gives that control back, building on the foundations of what partners already have from having sold millions of virtual machines,” said Dolman. “They can now help customers move workloads into hybrid clouds while still being in control of the situation.”

At its Partner Exchange conference in San Francisco earlier in February 2014, VMware unveiled a number of enhancements to its partner programme, including changes to its competency requirements.

With its Infrastructure Virtualisation competency now no longer a compulsory requirement for VMware partners, the vCHS competency – made up of two sales, two technical and one operational accreditation – would help attract new partners, suggested Dolman.

VMware has already moved to put in place baked-in margin on vCHS, as well as solutions rebates of 5% on each deal, paid quarterly, along with the usual channel development activities and marketing funds.

“On top of that we will be mobilising the efforts of our internal sales forces to help channel partners take the relevant message to their customer base,” he said.

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