Richard Munro, chief technologist for vCloud Air at virtualisation specialist VMware, says that even the most innovative technology firms can find new ways to meet their customers’ requirements.
VMware was named the cloud innovation winner of Computer Weekly's European User Awards for datacentre/storage 2014.
“We thought we understood what the public cloud meant to people,” says Munro, reflecting on the discussions and the process that led to the creation of VMware’s award-winning vCloud Hybrid Service.
“We discovered that the public cloud has gone through a rogue era, where the approach was admired but the processes were not necessarily understood. What we now know is that customers are asking for the hybrid cloud, so that they can draw on the benefits of the cloud in a compliant way,” he says.
VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) allows CIOs to run a combination of private and cloud environments. Built on vSphere, and used by more than 500,000 businesses globally, vCHS means IT leaders can move workloads, virtual machines and applications seamlessly on- and off-premise, using the same tools and processes they use in their own environments.
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“What matters to our customers is compatibility, integration and flexibility,” says Munro. “People just want to take advantage of the cloud without the challenges. Our approach allows CIOs to work from the platform they’ve already created and to think about how the business might start exploiting the cloud.”
Moving to the cloud can be an expensive process. VMware’s vCHS reduces the cost and complexity of a move to on-demand by allowing businesses to use their existing investments in applications and infrastructure. CIOs can use the vCloud to move data, applications – both legacy and software as a service – and workloads in and out of their public and private environments.
“Moving to the cloud often means you have to complete a lot of preparatory work first, such as upgrading your operating systems or making changes to your management stack,” says Munro. “That work is complex and can take a lot of time. Because we have an agile platform, you don’t have to absorb the risk and the cost of the preparatory work.”
Supporting disaster recovery and compliance
VMware’s vCHS approach also provides business benefits in terms of disaster recovery and compliance. With two datacentres in the UK, vCHS enables customers to maintain all their data within UK shores, helping IT leaders to address compliance and data-sovereignty concerns.
“We differentiate in terms of localisation and the country where you take a contract for service provision,” says Munro. “Our cloud is located in a specific nation. The data stays there and meets data law requirements. People need that assurance, both technically and in terms of governance.”
Our cloud is located in a specific nation. The data stays there and meets data law requirements
Richard Munro, VMware
Munro says VMware is also using the cloud to rethink disaster recovery, by replicating virtual machines to vCHS and storing them in a virtual datacentre. By removing the need to build and maintain tertiary recovery sites, Munro says the VMware approach is much more cost-effective.
“By simply clicking a button, you can replicate and deploy, meaning your overheads are reduced and you can start to think differently about the way your business uses disaster recovery,” he says.
Making IT a business hero
The vCHS approach provides an additional benefit in terms of speed of delivery. UK research from VMware found there is an average gap of five months between the business’s initial technology demands and the IT department fulfilling the request. Using vCHS, businesses can increase the speed of deployment and gain a competitive advantage.
“If you’re running a new business project, most organisations will have to make upfront decisions because of the cost of IT. Moving to the cloud means you can fail faster, stick to your expected budgets and extend resources as required,” says Munro.
“Using our system, you can also choose – if you want – to move the system back on-premise. We’re seeing seismic shifts for our customers who are able to deliver platforms quickly. It means the credibility of the IT department changes overnight – IT becomes a hero, rather than an organisation that simply manages expectations,” he adds.
Delivering business benefits through hybrid cloud
Bluefin Solutions has already seen the benefits of moving to vCHS. The firm had been struggling to find a way to move data between the private and public cloud. The VMware interface, says Munro, provided a means to help provision resources quickly.
“Bluefin is a strong SAP consultancy and its customers want to see demonstrations. If the customer likes what they see, Bluefin – under normal circumstances – would have to build the full specification system to fit with the customer’s infrastructure, which could take a couple of months. With vCloud, Bluefin can demonstrate and then roll out the full product quickly, either publicly or privately in the cloud,” he says.
UK retailer Hut Group has also benefited from vCloud. Munro says the firm recognises IT systems are critical to its online business, but moving to on-demand could have been perceived as too complex.
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“The CIO had to sort protection and vCloud allowed the business to overcome its challenges quickly, at low cost and without risk. The product provides a great way to spin out new services at speed,” he says.
“What we’ve proven is that you don’t need to change the way you work to make use of the cloud. What our approach can do is to help promote a change of mindset in organisations, where people can begin to realise how they can use the cloud across the rest of their services. It provides a roadmap to other areas of the business.”
Focusing on business needs
With vCHS only hitting general availability in February 2014, the technology is still in the early stage of adoption in Europe. However, it is already being recognised by Gartner and was placed in the analyst’s infrastructure-as-a-service Magic Quadrant after only six months.
More than 800 individuals at partner organisations across Europe have already been accredited to sell vCHS, which Munro suggests is clear evidence of an industry appetite for the technology. He says the cloud innovation award is an indicator of how the approach is delivering, and will continue to deliver, great results for users.
“The award shows people are increasingly thinking about customer needs, rather than simply thinking about the technology,” says Munro. “We’ve come from a different angle to provision – this is the public cloud but in a business-focused manner.”