VMworld 2021: VMware CEO fleshes out and refines company’s enterprise multi-cloud strategy

VMware’s new CEO, Raghu Raghuram, uses the VMworld 2021 keynote to set out the company’s expanded take on the meaning of multi-cloud

VMware continues to flesh out its multi-cloud proposition, claiming this approach to sourcing off-premise services is on course to become the enterprise market’s preferred way to consume IT services over the next 20 years.

During the keynote address at this year’s virtual VMworld customer and partner summit, VMware’s newly installed CEO, Raghu Raghuram, talked about how conversations about cloud had moved on from “phase one” of adoption, which was characterised by enterprises having to choose between running their IT in private or public clouds.

“The move to a single cloud [is] where we all began building cloud native applications,” he said. “This was a game changer in enterprise tech, raising the bar in terms of speed and business value.

“Over the past 20 months, the pandemic accelerated the move to phase two – [with] the shift from mono-cloud to multi-cloud, [which is] all about building and running a more diverse set of applications in the cloud,” said Raghuram.

“You can select the cloud based on the needs of the app and what your business demands, and you’re also transforming your datacentre into private clouds and running apps there. And now with edge, you’re pushing apps and services closer to where they are needed, especially in sectors such as retail, manufacturing, transportation and energy.”

As a result, the definition of multi-cloud should now be used to describe enterprises that are not only sourcing cloud services from one or more providers, but also who are opting to run applications and workloads across multiple environments.

“In our view, multi-cloud now extends all the way from public clouds to private clouds to the edge,” he said. “I consistently hear two main drivers for this move to multi-cloud. First I hear you say, ‘I want freedom to innovate using the best services from different clouds’. Equally important, I hear you say, ‘I don’t want to be locked into any single cloud provider’. In this stage, it’s clear multi-cloud is going to be the model we’re going to use for the next 20 years.”

VMware research

VMware’s own research suggests a “typical organisation” is running around 500 business applications, and that three-quarters of enterprises are already using “two or more public clouds”, he said.

But, despite the business resiliency and agility benefits multi-cloud deployments can bring to an enterprise, it can be a challenging setup for CIOs to get the most out of for their developers and employees, added Raghuram.

For instance, each public cloud is likely to come with its own set of tools and systems for operators to get their heads around, which creates barriers when attempting to “manage, connect and secure applications” running elsewhere.

“If you’re a developer, you tend to have a preferred cloud that you’re most comfortable with using, [but] getting your code into production is painful and slow even in one cloud, let alone [other clouds] with all these different plans,” he said.

“Managing, connecting and securing these applications is a challenge. Meanwhile, your customers and employees expect instant access to all of these applications at all times, and the security better not slow them down. Whether you realise it or not, you’re facing the same set of operational challenges that companies like Netflix do, but with a fraction of the resources.”

Tough choices

To overcome some of these challenges, CIOs that want to embrace multi-cloud ways of working are forced to make some “tough choices and trade-offs” so they can “optimise for developer autonomy and choice” and ensure their IT operations staff have the flexibility needed to run applications in different clouds without surrendering full control of the environment, for example.

“We believe every business should have freedom and control in their multi-cloud business, [as well as] developer autonomy and DevSecOps efficiency, enterprise apps on any cloud, full control and cost savings, anywhere access for employees, and world-class security,” he said.

“We are uniquely positioned to deliver [on this]… Going forward, multi-cloud is at the centre of gravity for everything we do. It is in our DNA.”

The foundation of the firm’s multi-cloud strategy continues to be the VMware Cross-Cloud Services proposition, which the firm first previewed back at VMworld US in 2016.

At the time, the offering was billed as a means of enabling enterprises to monitor and manage the resource consumption habits, security posture and cost of running workloads and applications across multiple public cloud platforms with greater ease.

The preview launch edition came with support for Amazon Web Services, the Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure, but – in the intervening years – VMware has moved to ensure it is compatible with the technologies offered by several other public clouds, too, as detailed through announcements at this year’s VMworld.

To this end, the offering now boasts compatibility with Oracle and Alibaba, but its functionality has also been expanded to ensure enterprises can use it to move their data to edge datacentres and environments hosted by members of VMware’s Sovereign Cloud programme, which includes public sector-focused infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider UKCloud.

Read more about VMware and multi-cloud

Sovereign Cloud programme providers are the ones that are recognised as operating cloud platforms that have been specifically engineered to meet the security and regulatory requirements of critical government agencies.

Richard Villars, group vice-president of IT market watcher IDC, said the stance VMware is taking on multi-cloud looks set to stand it in good stead, especially as so many enterprises have accelerated their off-premise migrations during the pandemic.

“During the past year, organisations fully embraced digital transformation as they were forced to respond to many dramatic changes, accelerating their innovation timelines at record paces,” he said.  

“Organisations rely heavily on cloud technologies to evolve and scale as they pivot to competing in a digital-first economy. VMware’s multi-cloud-focused strategy puts it in a strong position to help enterprises take full advantage of multiple clouds and their resources in their own datacentres to improve resiliency and the trusted use of technology for the delivery of better experiences and business outcomes.”

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